AUTHOR: A.J. Betts
PUBLISHER: Harcourt Brace and Company
“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.
The subject matter is tough, and so is the language, but Zac and Mia is unflinchingly real. Kids do get cancer, and there is no “right” way to deal with the physical and emotional trauma. A.J. Betts gives us an up-close and personal look at two teens as they fight this dreaded disease. Zac clings to statistics and leans on his family’s support, even when it becomes stifling. Mia, however, lashes out in her pain and terror. As these two, bound together by their common enemy, grow into an unlikely and unsteady friendship, I found myself cheering them on.
This is not a typical boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love story. The author is obviously well acquainted with cancer wards, and this book made me feel the pain, the fear, and the hesitant hope of his characters. I give Zac and Mia four stars.