Monday, January 5, 2015

ARC Review: Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Source: eARC from publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that's a lot about love (and a little about cancer).

Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize

"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.

My Review

Okay... I should have read this one months ago, but trying to read ebooks on my computer was really straining my eyes. I'm glad that I finally got to it because it was somewhat enjoyable, and unique.

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts is the story of two very different Australian teenagers who have one thing in common - they have cancer. In a world where there are so many YA books about cancer being published, you want just one that you read to stand out. Unfortunately,  there isn't really anything too striking about Zac & Mia.

The writing is okay, but I expected a little something more from an English teacher. There were quite a few times that I had to go back and re-read passages because the wording was awkward. The narration was weird. It starts off with Zac narrating, and I noticed his name, so I thought maybe there would be alternating chapters, but that doesn't happen until part two where Zac and Mia alternate chapters. That whole part is a little shaky. Mia starts solely narrating in part three, and it gets a little better again. I just thought it was a strange way to break up a book, but it does reflect how the two are living and the events in their lives.

I will note that I enjoyed that the American edition of this book is still very true to the author's Australian roots. There are references to foods and other Australian things in the book that I had to look up. It made the book a little more enjoyable. I think the book's setting might have been my favorite part because I've never read a book set in Australia before.

The book had enough going for it that I kept reading, but there were a few moments when I really wanted to put this book away for a while, but I wanted to find out more about Zac and Mia. Eventually I started to enjoy it a little more, and I read a good portion of it in just a few hours. I wish there was more. It just felt unfinished like the author was setting something up for a sequel.

In accordance to FTC guidelines, I must state that I received a free galley of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.


  1. I've been waiting for more reviews of this one. I think maybe the hype didn't match up with the reception so a lot of reviewers skipped it? I'm glad to hear you did somewhat enjoy this one though as I've been suggesting it often as a TFIOS alternative.

    1. I know there were a few reviews on Goodreads, but not as many as I thought there would be. It's a shame that people skipped over it because it seems like it didn't sell as many copies here than in Australia.

      Yeah... it was okay. I definitely won't be reading it again though. I did think it was better than TFIOS, but it still falls into that "bad cancer story" category thing for me.

  2. Why don't you read the book through your phone? I did that. Or was that not possible with ARC from netgalley?
    Anyway, I totally agree with you. It's so hard for cancer books to stand out from the numerous YA books centering about cancer. I was hoping much more from this book but looks like it's just like any other YA cancer books. Such a disappointment. :/
    The Book Ponderer

    1. I can't afford a smartphone, so I don't have one.

      It was okay, but definitely nothing worth writing home over. I think it could have been a lot better if things were refined, but I just got bored with it over and over again.

    2. Yeah I get that. I guess there's not really much ways you can write about a person who have cancer.

    3. Right? The cancer part becomes overdone, but I still think authors can find a way to make them a little more interesting. But this one had a road trip. TFIOS had that trip to Amsterdam. It's just like retelling the same thing over and over again.

      My personal favorite it Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It's so unique, and definitely not a sappy one.

    4. Exactly! Either that or bucket list. Always the same thing.
      I'll check that one out! Will be nice to have a change. :)

    5. Oh yeah! I don't think I've read any YA bucket list cancer books yet, except for Side Effects May Vary, but I do want to at least read a few just to see how unoriginal some of them are.

      But I did enjoy Side Effects May Vary because it was more realistic than I thought it would be. Plus the main character was so mean that it made her seem very real.

    6. Oh, there's a LOT! There's Never Eighteen which is a short read and then there's Ways To Live Forever. I found this list on goodreads:
      I'm not sure if all of it is about cancer but I recognize some that is and have the characters doing bucket lists.

      Yeah I read Side Effects May Vary and it was a great read!

    7. I'll definitely check out that list!

      I wish more people would have read Side Effects May Vary. I think it was pretty good, and it definitely deserved more attention than it got.

    8. It does handle the cancer issue in a different way which is refreshing.

    9. Right? I'd definitely recommend it to other readers. :)

  3. I hate when synopsis' compare themselves to other books. NO. Don't do that!! I like that the author put Australian roots into the book yet it doesn't seem that this one stood out at all. Nice review!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    1. I do too. The comparison to TFIOS is one of the reasons why I had a hard time picking this one up for so long too. I hated that book.

      Yeah... it didn't really stand out. Maybe a few things, but otherwise, it was just average.

      Thanks, Rachel.

  4. This book is on my TBR because books about illnesses always intrigue me and I have seen a lot of promising reviews for this book. It's a shame you couldn't get used to the narration and writing style too much when it comes to this book. I also don't really know about it being like TFiOS because I didn't love that book too much...

    1. I usually like books about illnesses, but they have to be done right, and this one just didn't work for me at most times.

      The steady narrations in parts one and three were fine, but the jumpiness in part two was just odd. I found myself getting confused, and I hate when that happens while I'm reading.

      I wouldn't really say it's like TFOIS or Eleanor & Park. I literally hate it when publishing companies decide to name drop to get readers because most times, the book is nothing like the two they are comparing it to, and in this case, that's what happens.

      You might like it. If you read it, let me know. I know it's super cheap on the Kindle store.


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