Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

By Ekta R. Garg

September 10, 2014

Rated: Borrow it

Two teens meet in the hospital during bouts of chemo. When they part ways they can’t stop thinking about one another, and life finds a way to bring them together once again. Author A.J. Betts’ Zac and Mia will build on the recent excitement around books about teens suffering from illnesses and accomplishes her goals, for the most part.

Zac has gotten to know his hospital room really well. During this latest bout of chemo he can’t leave the room at all; it compromises his immune system. Select staff members come to administer to his needs, and his mother provides an endless amount of optimism and sincere efforts to play the online games Zac likes. But nothing can quite make up for the fact that he’s stuck inside of four walls.

When he gets wind of a new patient next door, he starts communicating with her. Granted, their communication consists of taps on the wall, notes under the door (from her,) and Facebook messages. It doesn’t matter; the more Zac communicates with this girl, the more she piques his curiosity.

They form a tentative friendship, and when he finally leaves the hospital Zac can’t stop thinking about her: Mia. He has a name, and he’s seen her face online. Zac can’t help wondering whether their friendship will last, but he and Mia lose track of one another. At least he thinks they do; when Mia comes back into his life in the most unexpected way, Zac wants to help her. But Mia doesn’t know if she wants—or needs—his help.

Author A.J. Betts uses a story form made popular by another book: that of a pair of teens who may die soon and become drawn to one another because of their shared experiences. Betts manages to hold her own, although parts of her story veer off track. Mia’s decision to leave home will make sense to an extent, but after a point her journey starts to get a little tedious. At one point Betts uses misdirection, and it sticks out as a forced device. Readers may feel compelled to flip pages (or scroll) to see if they missed something, pulling them out of the story. Betts divides her story in thirds, the first narrated by Zac, the second by both protagonists, and the third by Mia. The book’s arc makes sense, even if Mia’s third lets down the entire story a little bit.

Still, some moments between Zac and Mia will make readers smile. Their snarky, typically teenage comments sound and feel familiar for their synergy with the universal teenage experience. Betts may have given her protagonists stereotypical family setups, but she offers a refreshing change in preventing the relationships from fulfilling those stereotypes.

I would recommend readers borrow this book.

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