Title: Zac and Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication Date: September 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Two kids with cancer fall in love and struggle together with their disease. That is how most people would describe this book, which would inspire probably no one to read it. A lot of people might not read it because it’s “just another cancer story like The Fault in Our Stars, blah blah blah…” Well, I’m here to tell you that, no, this book is not a lesser-known TFIOS, and no, it’s not simply about loooove and cancer. It’s about much more than that.
Zac is seventeen years old and is fighting leukemia, but still manages to keep a somewhat optimistic attitude. His odds are not good, but he’s willing to fight. Mia, on the other hand, has a 98% success rate after losing her leg to osteosarcoma. She is cancer free, but losing her leg damages more than just her body – it destroys her ego. She runs away from home and doesn’t know where to go. She has lost almost all of her will to survive. Before falling off the face of the earth, she makes one last stop to see her only friend from the hospital: Zac. Zac and his family take her in, and he’s willing to do almost anything for her. But will she let him help? It’s hard to ask for help when you no longer believe you deserve it.
The story is told through alternating perspectives of Zac and Mia. During the first 3/4 of the novel, I really didn’t like Mia at all. She was spoiled, bratty, annoying, ridiculously selfish, and didn’t give a shit about her life because it wasn’t worth living without her leg. I tried to place myself in her shoes. I tried to imagine my own life without a leg. Of course I’d be pissed and sad and confused, but hell, I’d be alive, and after being in a hospital with kids and adults that had much less of a chance to live than me, I’d be downright grateful. But no, Mia chooses instead to run away before finishing her treatments, stealing money and prescriptions as she goes. She then has the nerve to show up at Zac’s house and try to use him and continue her death march? She pissed me off. I’m really glad she matured as a character.
I liked Zac from the beginning. His wit and humor made him very likable, and the way he stayed positive in the face of pain and sadness was unbelievable. I also admired how he tried his best to help Mia, even though she didn’t always deserve it, in my opinion.
This is not a love story. I think that’s why I get so mad when I see people comparing it to TFIOS. Listen up, people – John Green is not the first person to write about teens and cancer and relationships, and he is certainly not the last, so shut the hell up and stop comparing every single book with similar themes to TFIOS. It really angers me. Unlike in TFIOS, Zac and Mia do not fall head-over-heels in love with each other – they are friends who share similar tragedies. Of course the two have feelings for each other that go beyond friendship, but they don’t truly discover it until later on, and they definitely don’t act upon it right away.
Zac and Mia is more about friendship, struggling through hardships, and learning to not just give up. This story was touching and heartbreaking, and made my eyes get a little watery at the end. If you’re one of those people who simply passed over this book because “it’s going to be just like The Fault in Our Stars” or some other book, or even for another reason altogether, I ask you to reconsider. I thought about giving it 3 1/2 stars, but the last 1/4 really broke my heart and captured my interest. Part II of the book is a little hard to push through, and even Part III is a bit slow, but I liked it, and I recommend it.