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Zac and Mia

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When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.

So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

310 pages, Paperback

First published July 24, 2013

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About the author

A.J. Betts

7 books260 followers
I'm a Perth-based writer who writes realistic fiction for teenagers (14+) but adults enjoy them too. I'm also an English teacher, poet, writer of non-fiction texts, presenter and reader.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,783 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews168k followers
July 4, 2015
I enjoyed this book, I just didn't love it. Something this book does well is character development, specifically with Mia's character. I loved seeing her develop throughout this story, mostly because I didn't like her much when she was first introduced. I just feel like this story didn't have much to the plot and the plot at hand was a bit predictable. I did like A.J. Betts writing though and will definitely pick up other books by her!
Profile Image for Ninoska Goris.
261 reviews157 followers
October 17, 2017
Español - English

“Con toda la destrucción que causa, el Cáncer tendría que entrar a gritos en el cuerpo, con sirenas aullando y luces centelleantes. No debería poder ocultarse y echar raíces en el cerebro de alguien de esa forma, agazapado entre los recuerdos."

Debo estar de acuerdo con que el tema se parece bastante al del libro Bajo la misma estrella. Sin embargo, este libro trata más sobre como dos adolescentes con cáncer llegan, de solo tener en común la enfermedad, a ser vitales uno para el otro.


“(With all the destruction it causes, Cancer would have to scream into the body, with sirens howling and flashing lights. It should not be able to hide and take root in someone's brain that way, crouched between memories.)”

I must agree that the subject looks quite similar to the book The fault in our stars. However, this book is more about how two teenagers with cancer come, just to have the disease in common, to be vital for each other.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,573 reviews5,903 followers
October 26, 2014
This book starts off quite well. I loved Zac. He is that boy that you can't help but fall in love with. Then we meet Mia. I did not like the girl child. I just couldn't make myself.
This is not a romance. It's a friendship story and it's not a horrible book. It just feels unfinished. No character development and I just didn't really care like I should have.
This book has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars. Bullshit. I gave that book 3 stars and this one didn't touch it. Sorry dudes.
I would have given this book a one star but I did manage to finish it so I rounded up to a 2.

I recieved an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
589 reviews1,031 followers
July 28, 2013
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

3.5 stars

Thank you Text Publishing for sending me this copy. No compensation was given or taken to alter this review.

'I'm the least brave of everyone. I never signed up for this war. Leukaemia conscripted me, the fucker.'

Zac and Mia had a John Green vibe to it- the synopsis immediately reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars. While not as fantastic, Zac and Mia has a strong story filled with wit, humour and heart felt moments. But let me stress that this book should not be in comparison to The Fault in Our Stars, Zac and Mia carries it's own, unique story about two teens living with cancer. The execution is utterly antithetic.

Both main characters, Zac and Mia were enjoyable. Zac had a judgemental narrative point at times, yet his sarcasm and general authenticity made it hard not to love him. Zac has been dealing with leukaemia for some time and during his time in the hospital, meets dangerously fiery Mia. Who seems to have a bad taste in music. Who shouts at her mum. Who has no friends that know about her fatal illness. In all honesty, I found Mia unappealing for the majority of the novel. With her constant swearing, ignorance and crude behaviour, I felt isolated from her, nonetheless, all her glaring flaws seem to have a foreshadowing meaning to it, which resulted me into likening Mia eventually.

While the family relationships only held a minuscule part to Zac and Mia, I still feel the urge to commend it. In contrary to Mia and her mother's yelling and coldness, Zac and his mum's connection- I loved to pieces. They were small sentiments, playing Call of Duty and talking, but it was cogent, tight and absolute bittersweetness. Moreover, a great contrast to the deep topics of illness- which I thought was fleshed out well. Not entirely dramatic but realistic in the sense that I was told from the perspective of a teenager.

Zac and Mia surprisingly was not solely romance based. Yes, there was a chemistry, but it wasn't overpowering at all. The connection between Zac and Mia was more of a friendship during cancer, the hold to reality even. Nevertheless, the romance isn't typical and eye roll-a-rama, it's gradual, not too gradual, sweet, but not too sweet.

Briefly, the plot seemed a little lacking to me, some background drama (not in the dramatic sense) would've been preferred to make it more eventful. Yet on the other side of the scale, the writing was close to perfect. A. J. Betts effortlessly created a story, while daringly similar to John Green's, still equally fascinating and touching.

All in all, with minor flaws in the plot and characters, I found myself still loving the story overall. Compassionate and confronting are two words to describe this novel.
My friends and I have a theory. We have all read The Fault in Our Stars and absolutely adored it, if anyone can remember Isaac, the short name is pretty much, Zac. And there's Monica, but Mia seems pretty similar enough. Our theory is that this is the story of Isaac and Monica before The Fault in Our Stars was taken place. Of course, that was just our hopes since TFiOS is something that keeps coming back to traumatise us. Additionally, Isaac and Monica's word was always, the synopsis mentions always. Could that be they're, "okay"?
Profile Image for Dana.
440 reviews290 followers
October 23, 2014

If I had to describe this book in one sentence, I would describe it as the poor man's TFIOS(The Fault in Our Stars). I really had to force myself to finish this. My main issue was Mia, she was such a MASSIVE bitch. I truly hated her. She was a cruel, selfish, ingrate who literally cared about no one but herself. As for Zac, he was okay, although I found him kind of boring and nothing more than a crutch for Mia's abuses.

If you're looking for a teenage love story look elsewhere, these two protagonists don't even have enough chemistry to be worthy of the shared title. 2/5

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Grace (LovingDemBooks) Z..
189 reviews1,420 followers
February 20, 2015
Buy this book HERE on Amazon or buy this book HERE on BookDepository with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIIPPING

I received an advanced reader's edition of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

4 of 5 stars (Please read my rating system further below). Though similar to John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, I think I might have to say that Zac and Mia was one of the best books that I've read all year; it was so heart warming and refreshing. I remember myself cracking up every few minutes each time I would try to read in an Australian accent, since the novel is Australian. I loved how awkwardly Zac and Mia met, and how their differences sparked such a great friendship (especially their morse code conversations about Lady Gaga and texting over Facebook). Friendship, not romance. It's so common for healthy and friendly relationships in YA books to turn into romance, and I loved how Zac and Mia's stayed the same, it never changed, making it such a breath of fresh air. Out of the two perspectives that the book was told in (Zac and Mia each had a perspective), Zac’s by far had to be my favorite (Did I mention that he loves Emma Watson?!). He was such an interesting character. All of his decisions were driven by math and logic, except when it came to Mia. Mia on the other hand was a bit selfish and reckless, but I really enjoyed seeing her change as a character Zac as the story progressed, and her changing herself was great as well. Overall, I would really recommend this book to anybody who likes to friendship, crazy bus road trips, and especially if you loved The Fault In Our Stars.

My rating system: (I do use half stars.)
5 - I do not use the 5 star. Not because a book might not be worthy, but because a book is never perfect.
4 - I loved it! There weren't too many flaws, and I had no trouble getting through it. (A 4 star rating is the highest rating I've ever given a book.)
3 - I enjoyed the book, but there we're flaws that made me enjoy it less.
2 - I finished the book, but there were too many flaws for me to enjoy it.
1 - I could not finish the book, and I probably did not finish it....
Profile Image for May.
Author 10 books8,606 followers
July 19, 2015

Zac y Mia es una novela que ha salido recientemente en España y que trata sobre dos jóvenes enfermxs de cáncer. Es una novela que trata el cáncer y la enfermedad desde un punto de vista muy realista y duro. Una novela que es cortita, se lee rápido y que cuenta una historia del día a día y la vida de dos personas que estaban destinadas a encontrarse y entenderse.
Zac y Mia no es la novela que todxs esperamos sobre el cáncer parecida a Bajo la misma estrella. Probablemente lo primero que pensamos al ver el libro es que se parecerá muchísimo. Pero lo cierto es que no, Zac y Mia es una novela muy muy diferente a BLME y con la que solo comparte el tema del cáncer. Zac y Mia es una novela original, sencilla, realista y cercana al lector.
Lo que más me ha gustado sin duda es el hecho de que sea tan real. La autora nos muestra el lado duro y cruel del cáncer. Nos muestra cómo viven lxs pacientes de cáncer en los hospitales y cómo el cáncer irrumpe en las vidas de lxs jóvenes y lxs deja hechos polvo. Me ha gustado porque he aprendido muchísimo con ella y he leído cosas que no sabía que ocurrían con lxs enfermxs.
Más bien Zac y Mia es una parte de la vida de dos enfermxs de cáncer que se encuentran y se conocen. Al leerlo te da la sensación de que estás conociendo unos meses de esas vidas que seguirán -o no- después. Me ha gustado esa sensación porque no es lo que suelo sentir al leer una novela.
Los personajes además tienen voz propia y son recurrentes y únicos. Son personajes muy reales y que bien podrían pasar por personas de carne y hueso. Mia con su carácter y Zac con su optimismo. Ambos me gustaron mucho y a ambos les cogí cariño.
La trama en sí de la novela es algo floja, es lo que más me ha fallado. Aunque de alguna manera lo veo justificado porque cuenta una historia muy real y del día a día. Pero aún así no me enganchó como me hubiera gustado ni tiene una historia muy bien elaborada que llegue al lector.
Probablemente lo que menos me ha gustado de la novela es que no me ha transmitido absolutamente nada. La autora no me ha emocionado, no me ha hecho ponerme en la piel de los personajes y más bien me ha dejado totalmente indiferente. Lo leí muy rápido y al acabarlo me sentí igual que al empezarlo.
En resumen, Zac y Mia es una novela realista sobre el cáncer recomendable para personas que disfruten con este tipo de dramas. No me parece una novela muy especial y personalmente no me ha llegado del todo. Pero te hace pasar un rato entretenido y se aprende bastante con ella.
Profile Image for antonia.
393 reviews100 followers
March 20, 2017
"Courage is standing still even though you want to run. Courage is planting yourself and turning towards the thing that scares you, whether it's your leg or your friends or the guy who could break your heart again. It's opening your eyes and staring that fear down."

I can do nothing but to recommend this to you. You should really read it. It's probably the best fiction about cancer I've ever read/watched. It's honestly better than the fault in our stars. Makes you think. We should all be lucky <3
Profile Image for Mia Nauca.
124 reviews3,832 followers
July 28, 2015
Este libro es un solido 3.5
Se trata de dos chicos que sufren de cancer y ambos definitivamente lidian con su enfermedad de manera muy distinta. Sin embargo, forman un lazo fuerte entre los dos que los ayuda a mantener la cordura mientras tratan de sobrevivir
Profile Image for Ryan Buckby.
652 reviews88 followers
October 28, 2018
Google tells me everything I need to know about death except what comes after.

one of those reads that leave me with a heavy heart and full of emotion that i need to take some time and think about what i've read to understand it.

Plot: the book is told in three different parts where we get to see a lot of different aspects of the story and it's told in a way i don't think i've read before. The first part is focused on the two's time in the hospital during treatment, the second is centred around Zac and his time after the hospital. The final part is told in the perspective of Mia and we get to see her point of view of the story which was really good to see. The friendship these two shared in the book was really well done it wasn't a straight up love at first sight it was one were the characters for the most part were just friends that eventually ended up as something more.

Zac and Mia really played off each other and it made for some enjoyable reading because i love when characters can just work well off each other and the dynamic is that of two friends just trying to enjoy life in such a horrible situation. Zac finds a friend in Mia and Mia also finds something in Zac that she was missing and it just worked really well.

Zac has more of an acceptance to his cancer diagnose which i wasn't expecting because you don't see many stories like that however Zac just accepted the fact and tried to live as normal as he possibly could. Mia was a bit annoying in the beginning with out arrogant and angry she was being towards everything but i could understand of where she was coming from because being a situation like that would be extremely difficult.

This story was more about then reading about two characters who have cancer it was about how you deal with it, friends not being able to understand, the pity people give you in those situations. It was about Zac and Mia and how they bonded and created a wonderful friendship to help each other through this extremely tough time.
Profile Image for Paula Weston.
Author 8 books851 followers
January 22, 2015
I've read quite a few books in recent months but it's taken me until now to have a chance to share some thoughts on them. The one thing the time lapse allows is the capacity to see which books have 'stuck', and this one most certainly has.

Cancer isn't easy, it's not glamorous and it definitely isn't fun. And what I liked most about this story was that A.J Betts never loses sight of that, even in those unexpected moments that made me laugh out loud. Her characters are fully fleshed, the relationships complex, and the challenges sharply drawn.

Zac & Mia (the book and the characters) always feel real. Mia in particular is not always likable, but that's why I liked her - she's selfish and terrified and angry and lashing out. It makes her journey all the more interesting. And Zac...he's sweet and stoic and the heart and soul of this book.

The way they navigate through their friendship - and beyond - is part of what makes this such an engaging read. Not just the possibility of a romance, but how they support each other, aggravate each other and ultimately trust each other.

This book is funny, sad and moving. The dialogue is cracking and the story nicely paced. Above all, it's believable.

And did I mention it's Australian?
Profile Image for Angelica Juarez Gonzalez.
313 reviews74 followers
February 2, 2017
Me llevo menos de veinticuatro horas en leer este libro; seis para ser más específica. Si no contamos los intervalos de tiempo entre las actividades de la vida diaria (comer y esas cosas) así como también los momentos en que tenía que pararle porque la ola de tristeza era grande, rería menos. Y a mí me encantan los libros tristes. Tengo una inclinación grande hacia ellos. Soy una consumista emocional total. Y este libro aporta una gran parte de esas emociones.

Zac y Mia es una historia que hace tiempo quería leer. Me alegra haberlo hecho ahora. Porque pienso que a veces los libros son el momento. Y este fue en el indicado.

Trata una lamentable realidad: el cáncer. Y no es una historia que simplemente gira en torno a esto. Es la de dos chicos, Zac y Mia; y su constante lucha. Como se conocen en los momentos más endebles de su vida, entablan una relación, y no, no les hablo de solo una romántica. Va mas allá. Una amistad que poco a poco van fraguando, en ese hospital, en habitaciones contiguas y mediante comunicación por cartas y Facebook.

Es impresionante la manera realista en que la autora nos regala la historia de dos enfermos sin necesidad de una cura mágica (esto suelen hacerlo algunos). Como si fuese cuestión de magia. El sufrimiento, el desvanecimiento, las recaídas. El cómo ser fuerte por el otro. La irascibilidad de Mia en un principio. La obsesión de Zac por las estadísticas. Son unas de las cosas que hicieron más apreciable la historia. Y yo, que puedo decirte que he tenido una mirada cercana, íntima, con pacientes neoplásicos (soy estudiante de medicina y frecuento el hospital local). Te digo que esta historia merece ser leída. No como una obligación, no. Sino para darle la oportunidad a estos chicos a que te cuenten su vida y como les fue cambiada a raíz de un diagnóstico. Solo espero la disfrutes tanto o más que yo.

Y el final… ¿Qué les puedo decir? Me hace pensar que estarán bien. Es esperanzador.

(Una) Cita favorita:

Me asombra el modo en que el caos que rige el universo sabe exactamente lo que está haciendo, como si todo se hubiera acordado trece mil millones de años atrás y, desde entonces, las galaxias hubieran aplicado las reglas. Todas ellas están ahí arriba, siguiendo el ritmo y llenas de sentido, mientras que nosotros, los humanos, lo fastidiamos todo en el escaso tiempo que tenemos.

P.D.: Hay algunas similitudes con Bajo la misma estrella, sí. Quizás quien haya leído los dos -como yo- habrá notado lo de… Si eso te desanima, a lo mejor dirás: No pienso leer una copia de BLME. Te aliento a que continúes. Léelo. Es diferente. Coge un ritmo distinto. Y vale totalmente la pena.

P.P.D.: Otra reseña sin gifs. Y me encantan los gifs. Pero a veces siento que me quitan tiempo. :( Tiendo a ser meticulosa a la hora de escogerlos.
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,526 reviews
June 10, 2015
My initial thought was “Oh, another cancer book. Let me go grab a box of tissues”. I couldn’t help but compare this book with TFIOS. This book isn’t as romantic and I realized then that this book is totally different from John Green’s creation.

Yes, Zac and Mia were victims of deadly illnesses. They had different personalities and different ways of coping but they came together to be each other’s support outside of their families who did not know the pain firsthand.

It was a touching story. It showcased the gritty and raw emotions of pain. And the confusion and sadness of illness. It may not have been highly romanticized but everyone knows reality can not be so.

The ending of the book held no certainty of what was in store for the two lovers/friends but I was deeply warmed by Zac's loving kindness. I liked this book very much and I recommend it to those who are willing to give it a try.
Profile Image for Odette Brethouwer.
1,396 reviews234 followers
April 2, 2016
This is a really lovely, honest story. I haven't read The fault in our stars yet, but I can imagine this is for lovers of that book, because of the theme.

Profile Image for ALPHAreader.
1,112 reviews
July 23, 2013
Zac Meier tracks his fight with leukaemia by NASA’s Curiosity rover. When he was first admitted he watched a documentary about the construction of the rover; when he first relapsed the launch was making headlines and the night before his bone marrow transfer he watched footage of the rover being shot into space. Now he’s stuck in isolation from November 18 to December 22 while the graft from a German donor (his friends have since nicknamed him ‘Helga’) safely heals. They can shoot a robot into outer space to explore a new planet but haven’t yet found a cure for cancer . . . and that’s just the way it goes.

So, Zac waits. He waits with his mum who plays Call of Duty with him and does word puzzles. She welcomes all the new patients that are frequently in and out of this floor and she always has a detailed answer ready when the nurses ask Zac; “have you opened your bowels?”

And then one day a newbie arrives next door. Zac suspects it’s someone his own age (around about seventeen; the unlucky cut-off which means he just missed out on being admitted to the ‘fun’ and colourful children’s ward) – the real clue is when the new patient starts blaring Lady Gaga.

Over the next few days Zac finds out his next-door-neighbour is a young girl called Mia Phillips, who has localised cancer in her lower leg. She’s lucky. Her chances of survival kick Zac’s leukaemia stats in the butt.

Zac and Mia strike up a tentative neighbourly friendship.

It starts with tapping.

Notes are passed.

A Facebook friend request is accepted.

And all the while Zac learns of Mia’s anger and secrecy; she has screaming matches with her mother and according to Facebook, none of her friends know that she’s seriously sick.

When Zac’s isolation comes to an end and it’s time for him to re-enter the real world and await the all-clear, he thinks he’s seen the last of angry Mia and her good-chances.

Little does he know, their story is just beginning.

‘Zac and Mia’ by A.J. Betts was the winner of the 2012 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s writing. Betts now joins the long list of beloved Australian children’s and young adult authors who found their start with the prestigious Prize.

Can we just get something out of the way quickly? . . . ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green. Yeah. So ‘Zac and Mia’ is only similar to Green’s juggernaut in that it deals with young people who have cancer. That’s it. And I’m going to make a big call and say that Green’s book is fantasy compared to Betts’s raw tale of surviving the shitty hand that fate deals. There’s certainly no Phalanxifor miracle drug in Betts’s book.

For communicating the day-to-day mundane madness of cancer, Betts deserves high praise. I've read a few cancer YA books now where it’s all about what comes after – whether that be after you know the battle is lost or remission won – and there’s often a bucket list involved either way (and a prerequisite romance for a real robust life experience.) And, that’s fine. But in the first half of ‘Zac and Mia’, Betts tackles what happens in the thick of fighting. She presents Zac a few days into his isolation after a bone marrow transfer. She writes about him being waylaid by a common cold, and how he looks like Jabba the Hutt – bald and bloated from medication. When we first meet him, Zac is bored and sick of himself – he’s counted the tiles on the roof and eavesdrops on his neighbours as they go through the routines he has come to know by heart. Everyone probably knows someone or of someone who has/had cancer – I certainly do. And I can attest to the waiting lunacy and monotony there is in ‘fighting’ for your life. So I love that Betts presented that side of Zac and Mia’s story – it’s certainly not pretty, and it does mean that the book has a slow beginning . . . but I think it was so important that Betts show that side of cancer; the truth and the tedium.

It’s also in this slow but important beginning that we learn the most about Zac. That he was a healthy football player before fatigue and slight sores made way for much worse. And that while he tries to remain strong for his ever-present mum and Facebook friends, Zac has his reservations and fears. Especially since he knows what it’s like to not be cured, for treatment not to work the first time round;

I’m told I’m now 99.9 per cent someone else. I’m told this is a good thing, but how can I know for sure? There’s nothing in this room to test myself with. What if I now kick a footy with the skill of a German beer wench? What if I've forgotten how to drive a ute or ride a quad bike? What if my body doesn’t remember how to run? What if these things aren’t stored in my head or muscles, but down deeper, in my marrow? What if . . . what if all of this is just a waste of time and the leukaemia comes back anyway?

Betts also looks at cancer through a modernist gaze, and rather beautifully. Zac has this to say about the social media benefits of cancer;

Cancer is a Facebook friend magnet. According to my home page, I’m more popular than ever. In the old days, people would have prayed for each other, now they Like and Comment as if they’re going for a world record.

And at one point Mia wonders what happens to all the Facebook pages of dead people (and their iTunes music? To which Zac profoundly replies “in the cloud?”). It might date the book if Facebook goes by way of MySpace, but I loved that Betts asked these profound questions of death and grieving in the digital age.

Part one of the book was ‘Zac’ and all from his perspective, part two is ‘and’ and part three is ‘Mia’. Between ‘and’ and ‘Mia’ the story shifts rather monumentally to the outside world and especially onto Mia; who copes very differently than Zac with her cancer. Mia has issues at home and amongst her popular friendship group. She’s used to being desired and desirable, parties and boys are her normal so when cancer interrupts her life she tries to maintain her status quo, with disastrous results. Mia is angry, and for that reason she may not be terribly likeable, initially. But readers will probably find her prickly, mostly because Mia is the antithesis to all those phony portrayals of what cancer ‘survivors’ and strugglers should act like. Zac actually tows the line in many ways; he’s scared but battling and hopeful. Mia is just angry – angry at her mum and the nurses, her stupid leg and the way her seemingly perfect life has been interrupted. She cannot stand the thought of attending her school formal on crutches or in a wig, and she’s going to do all she can to get as far away from reminders of her illness as she can. I liked her. I liked that she ranted and railed to the point of annoyance because she bloody well should be mad at everyone. It’s not fucking fair, and good on her for letting them know it. Of course, Mia can’t run away from herself and what her body is doing, any more than she can try to put distance between her and the problems she’s created.

What didn’t work for me so much was the ‘and’ middle part of the story. I was quite happy for Zac’s beginning to be slow, and I actually quite liked that Betts mirrored the mundane hospital life to introduce us to these characters and set their stage. But I did think the middle dragged a bit; and while I liked Zac and Mia individually, together I was never so sure or entirely sold or quite certain what I was meant to be feeling about the two of them. There was just a bit of a disconnect for me in the middle, and mostly (ironically?) when it was Zac and Mia together the story didn’t work so much for me.

I will say I have a small beef with the cover of ‘Zac and Mia.’ When I saw it, my first thought was “not YA.” Now, having come from Reading Matters and the many legitimate and important discussions surrounding gender-flipped covers, I’m not saying that I think a twee cover featuring a guy and girl in Nicholas Sparks-esque almost-kissing pose would be better. Far from it. But the ‘Zac and Mia’ cover does not work for me and doesn’t lend itself to the incredible and heartfelt story within. Initially I thought maybe the weird Evil-Eye petals would make story-sense . . . but if it was ever explained then it went over my head. Look, someone like John Green can get away with a sparse Rodrigo Corral clouds cover because it’s John Green and his name is the cover (at this point, he could probably even get away with a black cover, Spinal Tap style). But for this really beautiful book about two kids finding each other under the worst of circumstances; I just wanted something more. And something that would let teen readers know this is a book with a lot of heart and heartache. I normally love Text covers and I actually don’t normally comment on book covers at all (unless they’re offensive); but I think ‘Zac and Mia’ has missed out on a lot by going for an unemotional literary look over more accessible and appealing YA, and it pains me to point that out.

‘Zac and Mia’ pulls no punches and offers no easy outs for readers. This is a young adult book about two teenagers in the thick of their cancer battle; examining their boredom and fear, grieving Facebook friends and the infuriating hell of living in a modern age where we can send a robot to Mars but have no cure for what kills close to seven million people every year. Another triumph for the Text Prize, A.J. Betts is in good company and ‘Zac and Mia’ is another great read.
Profile Image for Jen .
2,546 reviews27 followers
June 27, 2020
Let me start off by saying that I have never read and never plan to read the book this is compared to, The Fault in Our Stars (I did a few Lurlene McDaniels books in the 90s and am over the young adults in love dying from cancer, thank you very much). So I can't compare this to TFioS, it is being judged on it's own merits.

The MCs both come across to me as realistic. Zac is the survivor, obsessed with the percentage change of survival; while Mia is a spoiled little witch in denial who wants her life to go back to normal. I loved Zac, he was sweet and relatable. He's the one you would hope you would be if you had a horrible cancer diagnosis. Mia, the jerk, is probably who I would end up being.

While Mia is realistic and believable, she is NOT likable AT ALL and the reason why I DNF'd this at 42%. I didn't want to read ANYthing from her POV. Life is too short.

Other than Mia, who was my breaking point with this book, it has a lot to recommend it. Not only Zac, but his family, who are loving and supportive, but are human, with human flaws. This also takes place in Australia and has some local color to it that I found interesting. I really wish Mia was a nicer person in this book, but it is realistic. I would not hesitate to suggest this to someone looking for something similar to TFioS. Of course, I would also suggest Lurlene McDaniels if the reader wanted to ugly cry. With a title like "Don't Die My Love", what does one expect? That's just one of them, she had a whole slew of them, but that's the one that sticks out the most for me.

So, solid 3 stars for realistic and Australia. Knocked down two because Mia, she's a tad TOO realistic.

My thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group/HMH Books for Young Readers for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nadia King.
Author 12 books77 followers
May 28, 2017
I shied away from reading Zac & Mia mainly because the whole cancer thing put me off. Live long enough & too many people you know end up dying from it. I finally took the bull by the horns and got stuck between the pages of Zac & Mia and what a pleasant surprise. And what a ride, too. I seriously loved this book.

Please don't read this thinking about other YA books around this topic, come at Zac & Mia without preconceptions. I was sucked into the story fast. Zac is seventeen and literally quarantined in hospital from a bone marrow transplant. Enter stage right, Mia. Angry, tough, mean, selfish. Lost.

Somehow they become friends. Zac is wonderfully warm. Mia is spiky.

There's a road trip, adventures in the US, glow-in-the-dark star stickers, baby alpacas, and Lady Gaga. Together all this becomes the story of Zac and Mia.

Don't be put off by the cancer. This is a wonderfully beautiful story about two teens and the journey they share.

Bravo, A.J.Betts on a hard-to-put down, easy-to-read, perfect YA book with plenty of laugh out loud moments. Can't wait to see the TV series.
1,076 reviews
July 29, 2013
I usually avoid books about cancer but after hearing A.J. Betts speaking in 2011 about the book she was writing and knowing that she has worked for 8 years as a hospital teacher, I decided that as a Text Prize winner this was a book not to be missed.
I was not disappointed. What was most uplifting for me was the portrayal of the two teens, Zac and Mia, and the amount of resilience that was necessary to survive cancer treatments. On the way Betts was able to impact a lot of information about cancer and how important support systems are to people who have cancer. Her intimate knowledge of the hospital system and cancer treatment shone through, but it was the humour and compassion in the book and budding relationship between Zac and Mia that was outstanding.
Profile Image for shannon✨.
965 reviews43 followers
June 4, 2019
3.5 sterren

Ik vond het een mooi verhaal over een heftig onderwerp. Het verhaal heeft mij echter niet geraakt op de manier waarop The fault in our stars mij heeft geraakt, ergens vind ik dit wel jammer. Wat ik wel een pluspunt vond was dat het verhaal vanuit twee perspectieven werd beschreven, waardoor je de personages beter begrijpt. Daarnaast vond ik de manier waarop de love interest is neergezet ook echt een pluspunt. Wat ik daarentegen wel een beetje jammer vond was het einde, het voelde nogal gehaast in verhouding tot de rest van het boek.
Profile Image for Tormenta.
94 reviews
August 13, 2016
En realidad es un 2.5/5

¿La portada parece prometer un romance apasionado? Una lástima, en este libro no es eso lo que se encuentra. En su lugar, hay una lucha de supervivencia entre páginas.

Mia, la protagonista, me había caído pésimo. Era egocéntrica, caprichosa, y lo tenía absolutamente todo. Los problemas no existían en su vida, y si lo habían, ella se negaba a prestarles atención. Se sentía desgraciada, aún viendo que su alrededor se derrumbaba, ella creía que su situación era mucho peor. (Todavía no me olvido de esos comentarios extremistas y un poco sexistas por parte de ella... no la soportaba).

Y Zac... bueno, Zac era muy torpe, y demasiado "matemático" para el mundo real. Es el típico chico que cree en las matemáticas por sobre todo, y hace lo posible para levantar a Mia del suelo y dejar de prestarse atención a sí mismo. Lo contrario a Mia, que todo se centraba sólo en ella (UUUGH).

La historia al principio le cuesta engancharte. Nos encontramos en un hospital, con un Zac aburrido que no para de hablar de cosas "casi" interesantes (si nos ponemos a pensar un poco), hasta que aparece una chica despampanante al lado de su habitación, poniendo música a todo volumen. Se comunican por golpecitos en la pared. Aquellos "toc" y "tac" de ellos que no van a tardar en ser comparados por los "Okay, okay" de Bajo la misma estrella, por supuesto.
Pero el rumbo de la novela empieza a mejorar cuando ellos toman caminos diferentes. Conocer más sobre los personajes me dio otra perspectiva de la historia, aunque a veces parecía decaerse, no tardó en volver a tomar su rumbo. La lectura es entretenida, fácil de leer, unas frases que te dejan pensando y a medida que las páginas pasaban me daba cuenta de cuánto los personajes iban evolucionando.

Lástima todos esos capítulos de relleno, explicaciones innecesarias, personajes secundarios TAN planos, el ambiente tétrico y las nulas intenciones por parte de la autora para hacerme llorar de la emoción, hubiera sido un poco mejor.

Continuar leyendo la reseña acá.
Profile Image for Mollyflowers.
14 reviews
August 4, 2013
This is book is nothing but a shameless ripoff of THIS, one of my favourite books of all time. Down to the theme and even character names. So I won't even waste my breath detailing why this novel is the worst thing I have read all year. I am so angry. Shame on Text books for supporting plagiarism!!! Copy someone else's story and win a national contest? Um, but NO. Don't support this. Avoid like the plague. Or read TFIOS instead :)
PS- what's with the ugly 70s cover scheme and picture? Kinda gross how it looks like the eye is having its eyelashes pulled out >_<

The above is my original review based on what I thought when I finished the book. Wowzers, I didn't expect to be attacked & also sent a whole bunch of threatening messages from strangers hoping that I would be caught, prosecuted & that I should just **die** & a whole lot of awful things I can't mention here. I just delated them. maybe I should have showed the police? When I got a phonecall last night from a "private" number and then the person on the other end just hung up, it kinda made my jumpy. Makes me think of that Dixie Chicks song, the one with the lyrics "It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger". All I can say is be careful when you review THIS book!!!! Woweee.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,290 reviews215 followers
April 30, 2019
Definitely read this book for a certain challenge.. plus I found it on Overdrive!

Zac and Mia was cute. In the beginning I will admit that Mia wasn't my favorite character. She just seemed kind of rude and annoyed me. However, throughout the book she sort of grew on me and I ended up liking her. Then there's Zac, who was instantly lovable. When Mia was around him.. it definitely made me like her a bit more than I originally did.

The one thing I did like about this book was the lack of romance. If it was a romance novel.. then I probably would've ended up hating it. The little romance that was in there was basically just about a friendship being formed. It's probably why I liked it more than I thought I would.

Overall, it was cute but a bit boring. Thankfully I somehow made it to the end of this book.
Profile Image for ItsMedea.
82 reviews27 followers
August 23, 2016
3,5/5 ⭐ Ich fand das Buch hat sich mega in die Länge gezogen obwohl es nicht so viele seiten hat. Das Ende fand ich aber gut! :)
Profile Image for Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
2,456 reviews513 followers
September 17, 2014

A.J. Betts won the Text Prize for YA and Children's Writing in 2012 for her unpublished manuscript of Zac and Mia. Set in Western Australia, it is the story of two teenagers who meet while receiving treatment for cancer.

Seventeen year old Zac Meier is partway through an enforced period of isolation after a bone marrow transplant to treat his second re-occurrence of acute myeloid leukemia. Stuck in the adult oncology ward, with only his mother and the nurses asking about his bowel movements for company, when a blast of Lady Gaga penetrates the thin adjoining wall of his hospital room, Zac is intrigued by his new neighbour, Mia.
Before her diagnosis of osteosarcoma Mia gave little thought to the future but she could never have imagined she would face it as a 'one legged freak'. Furious with everyone and everything, including herself, and desperate to deny the reality of her situation, Mia tries to run as far away as she can from her old life.

The narrative is shared between the perspectives of Zac and Mia.
Betts characterisation is credible and I felt her portrayal of her protagonist's emotions and behaviours was realistic.

Zac is an easy character to like, he is sweet, thoughtful and deals with the indignities cancer treatment forces upon him graciously. His family is supportive, with his mother rarely leaving his bedside. He has a sense of humour about his situation, and remains hopeful even despite his bleak odds of long term survival.

"I don't moan about treatment because what's the point? The way I figure it, this is just a blip. The average life span for an Australian male is currently seventy nine years or 948 months. This hospital stay, plus the rounds of chemo and the follow up visits, add up to about nine months. That's only 1.05 percent of my life spent with needles and chemicals, which, put into perspective, is less that one of the tiles of the eighty-four on the ceiling. So, in the scheme of things, it's nothing."

Mia is a seemingly less sympathetic character, she is bitter, angry and absorbed by her own misery after her diagnosis, however I never held that against her. In truth, Mia is simply terrified and, completely overwhelmed, lashes out indiscriminately.

While my friends were dancing at Summadayze, I was kept in observation with intravenous morphine. I pitched in and out of the world, visited by shrinks who attempted to talk about change and perspective and body image and luck. Then they hooked me up to more chemo. I couldn't eat, wouldn't talk, didn't watch when the wound was unbandaged or the staples taken out. I tried to trick myself beyond my fucked-up body, slipping between vivid dreams until the morphine was taken away and I was left to live like this."

The relationship that develops between Zac and Mia is well crafted and believable. Despite their differences, the pair form a tentative friendship, starting with a few taps on the hospital wall dividing them. It isn't until Mia unexpectedly turns up on Zac's doorstep once he is home though that the pair really begin to get to know one another.

While there is a touch of romance, it is important to note that Zac and Mia isn't a love story. This is a story about friendship, understanding, family and finding the strength to face life's difficult challenges. It is poignant and sweet, though Betts doesn't gloss over the darker realities of battling cancer.

The comparisons between Zac and Mia and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars are almost inevitable given the similar premise, so I think it is important to point out that author interviews have them drafting their novels at about the same time. I loved The Fault In Our Stars but of the two, I think Zac and Mia is the more genuine story.

Profile Image for Nomes.
384 reviews376 followers
February 16, 2014
3.5 stars

Zac & Mia is A. J. Betts third YA novel -- and winner of the Text prize. I was so looking forward to reading it (having enjoyed the humour and heart in her sophomore novel Wavelength) and, having won the prestigious Text prize, I knew to expect something great.

Zac & Mia ended up surprising me. Betts took the book in a different direction than I expected and I really enjoyed the structure of it. The novel presents dual POV's, broken into three parts: Zac, Zac & Mia, and Mia.

It opens with Zac's perspective, in hospital, and his chapters initially seemed slow and quiet and I was wondering when he would meet Mia face to face. Once I settled in I found my groove as a reader and, in hindsight, I could see just how well this set-up worked (different to what I had assumed, given the blurb). This initial chunk of the book really grounded the story and built a great platform for the ensuing events (which take place outside of the hospital). After finishing I had a greater appreciation for Zac's opening section.

While the cancer provided the meet-cute and catalyst for the story there is a lot more inside than just that. There is steady humour and plenty of heart. Quiet dramas and lots of fantastic settings: from Perth beaches to small country towns and Zac's family farm (lots of fun -- I really felt like I was there). Also plenty of secrets and revelations, and a road trip :)

I really appreciate how well Betts explored the themes. Not only did Betts explore the usual themes that come up in a novel about teens with cancer (life, death, luck, hopes, loss, boredom, pain, love, family) but her real triumph is in the way she portrays isolation and courage.

Not just the physical isolation of hospitalisation for days on end, but the isolation that comes afterwards --when you are not the same and your head-space is so different to your pre-illness life that you can't fit in and be the same person that you were before. A really unsettling and isolating feeling for a teen (or anyone) to have to face.

The strength of Betts novel is how well she gets inside her character's head. Like many Aussie YA books, her characters felt real -- her dialogue is spot-on, the supporting characters truly shine in their own ways, and Zac and Mia's perspectives ring unique and true. Everything feels raw and real, completely grounded.

In a book that features cancer, authors can go an easy path and get cheap emotion but Betts kept it real the whole way and her book was stronger for it. The ending loomed ahead the whole time and (no spoilers) it surprised me just how perfect and true it felt.

Perhaps courage is simply this: spur-of-the-moment acts when your head screams don't, but your body does it anyway.Courage, or stupidity. It's hard to tell. (p238)
511 reviews210 followers
August 9, 2014
i think a big part of what this book says is that no pain is less to the experiencing person. you could look at people and exclaim at how they're whining when they have it so much better than entire nations of peoples, but that doesn't really mean anything.

mia and zac's story was gradual, at times stagnant. it was not the most original but at least, it didn't deal with the characters' respective pains and the subject of cancer manipulatively or callously. hell, it doesn't really deal with cancer, rather the after-effects at least when it concerns mia.

zac has been acquainted with his malady(should i use this word??? educate me.) and has been through the process numerous times, with hopes and falls. mia, on the other hand, lost her foot and in turn, the life that she knew. it's different for both of them as mia is bitter while zac tries to take care of things that he can make better, ie, mia and depression.

i don't guarantee you'll enjoy this book, or like these characters. or hell, even make it through the story because like i said, mia is hardened and bitter and selfish, and the story wanders and stops. all i can say is you shouldn't underestimate somebody's pain and i believe that, and i liked the book all the more for exemplifying that.

review copy provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Profile Image for Mafi.
1,108 reviews200 followers
December 7, 2017
Tenho alguns sentimentos contraditórios com este livro. Gostei mas ao mesmo tempo não achei assim nada de especial. Gostei mais das personagens em si e do seu desenvolvimento do que do plot. Também só o li para ver a série, mas acho que se até tivesse começado pela mesma sem ter lido este livro, não ia sentir falta dele.
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