Connections—long lasting connections—are sometimes forged in the unlikeliest of places. In Zac and Mia by A.J Betts, the friendship of the title characters begins with a simple tap against a hospital wall in the hopes that the person next door will hear it. It is this shy, yet bold gesture that changes both their lives forever. Zac and Mia are two extraordinary teenagers battling illness and relying on each other for the type of support and friendship that is hard to come by when sickness knocks at your door. They also happen to be your classic when opposites attract pairing—a dynamic that infuse their scenes with punchy back and forth dialogue, and an undeniable chemistry that makes Zac and Mia such a fast, emotional, and engaging read. For readers who loved (and cried endlessly over) John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, Zac and Mia is an ideal complementary read. A story of two teenagers defying the odds together, and finding a life changing, groundbreaking kind of friendship.
Whereas most teenagers meet at parties or at school, Zac and Mia meet as patients at an Australian hospital where they are both being treated for cancer. While Zac is the picture of perfection as the kind hearted patient all the nurses dote on, Mia makes a rather loud entrance by blasting pop music in order to get her Mom to leave her alone. While Zac has a supportive family back home on his Australian farm, Mia is constantly at odds with her Mom. When Zac can no longer bear the pulsating sounds of Lady Gaga coming from the next room, he spontaneously decides to send the outspoken girl in the next room a letter. In response, she sends him a Lady Gaga CD. Of course, an unlikely, very unique bond is formed. Zac can’t help but be drawn to Mia and her brutal honesty, there really is no one else quite like Mia in his life– it’s refreshing, while Mia can’t help but find comfort in Zac’s compassion. Together the two weather the storm of their illnesses, finding solace in the support of the other. When Mia can no longer hide the illness she has kept from her friends, the one person she knows she can turn to is Zac. With Zac’s support and unwavering kindness, Mia finally feels like she can tackle the illness head on.
Zac and Mia is an honest, raw look at the unexpected bonds we form in the unlikeliest of places—relationships that take hold of us unexpectedly and last for a lifetime. What struck me the most about Zac and Mia, and what I’ll take away from this story more than anything, was the raw and very special relationship between the two that I continued to think about long after I finished the book. Similar to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, the relationship between Zac and Mia is a delicate, overwhelming connection between two characters that changes the course of their lives for the better. Zac and Mia are infused with a candidness and honesty that feel more like talking with friends than reading about a book character. You grow to care deeply for these individuals the more their story progresses. The narrative spends time with both Zac and Mia so as readers we have the chance to get to know the two characters together and separately—privy to inner dialogue and feelings that strengthens our emotional attachment to them.
Zac and Mia is a personal, emotional journey and we couldn’t ask for two more remarkable characters to spend it with.
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