Zac and Mia – A. J. Betts

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Illness

First Published: July 24th 2013 by Text Publishing

“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.”

The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t – couldn’t – be friends with her.

In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note – then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital, different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe the both need each other, always. 


I really don’t want to mention The Fault in Our Stars here, but I probably have to. Scanning through the reviews on Goodreads, there were a large number of people comparing this novel to it and that annoyed me. They are different novels and should not be compared.

Anyway, we shall not dwell on that. I do not want to compare them, I just thought that I’d mention that because not once do I get the feeling that this novel is trying to imitate TFIOS. Yes, some of the themes are the same, but how different are they going to be in a novel about teenage cancer?

Which brings me onto the honesty about this book. Zac and Mia are both completely open throughout this novel and one thing that is striking is Zac’s resignation to his treatment. To me, he has this “just get on with it” attitude, which completely contrasts with Mia’s view of her situation.

I know that some people found Mia particularly irritating throughout this novel, however I didn’t. I think I interpreted her bitterness and anger as her response to the cancer, rather than her personality in general, due to her change later on in the book. I got the impression that her behaviour was one way that someone may respond to a situation like hers, and Betts contrasts this with Zac’s approach to show how cancer affects people in different ways. This was something I particularly liked as it made it realistic. There weren’t the stereotypical positive ‘let’s change the world’ sort of attitudes, instead they were real and gritty, which actually made it a more pleasant and interesting read.

The plot of the story is actually quite fast paced, with many things happening. I find slow moving books with lots of explanation quite dreary and difficult to read and so this book kept me interested as it went on. There were also many twists and turns that weren’t expected, but they worked logically in the plot and kept it flowing.

The novel is split into three parts, which are narrated differently. Part one is narrated by Zac, during part two it alternates every chapter and part three is narrated by Mia. I particularly liked the way this was done because sometimes I find that if the narrator changes every chapter throughout the entire novel it doesn’t always flow that well, so this way you still get both characters’ perspectives, just without the constant changing. It also enabled me to understand how the characters were impacted, due to being in first person. If it had been narrated solely from one characters’ point of view then I think a lot of the story would have been lost as it is about them both and their own experiences and how they need support, rather than it being about one of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was something refreshingly honest about it and the emotion that is conveyed. I do feel that some books either take cancer and romanticise it or they do the opposite and portray everything negatively. However this book took what I’d imagine to be a realistic stance; being positive where possible, but not forgetting the awful impacts that cancer can have.

Rating: 4/5

What I Read on Holiday

Whenever I go on holiday to somewhere sunny (that makes it sound like a regular occurrence – I wish!) I like to take books that are lighthearted and not too heavy. Having returned from Cyprus in the early hours of this morning, I thought that I would share the books that I read whilst I was there.

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The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp

This is the story of Sutter, who lives in the ‘now’, drinks a lot and has had numerous girlfriends and Aimee, who is the complete opposite. Sutter decides to ‘help’ Aimee and they end up in a relationship, to keep it brief. I was probably the most excited to read this book out of all of them, however it turns out that this is my least favourite due to the narration style reminding me of that in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, which I greatly disliked. The narrator appears to me as quite self-obsessed and it irritated me, as well as making me feel desperately sorry for some of the other characters. I think that this is partially why it reminds me of Catcher, because the narrator is very impersonal and spontaneous, moving from one thing to another with a careless attitude. I didn’t feel that the ending really completed the novel at all and as a result left me feeling slightly disappointed more than anything. I felt as though there were a lot of ends left open which the author could have tied up and told the reader what happened because I didn’t feel as though the novel had actually finished! Overall, this book left me feeling more confused than I would have liked and asking questions that I felt should have been answered in the novel. However, despite my personal distaste for the narrator and his attitudes, the fact that this book isn’t too sad or heavy does make it a good summer read if you don’t want to have to focus too much.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

The title implies what this book is about; Amy’s mother moves from California to Conneticut leaving Amy alone to move once the school year has finished. The original plan is for Amy to fly however in order to get the car across she ends up having to drive across  the USA. Amy doesn’t drive (for reasons that are disclosed in the book and to say would be a spoiler) and so her mum enlists the help of family friend Roger (who is a year or two older than Amy) to drive. They decide that they don’t like her mum’s planned route and so make their own route, taking them through several states. This book is such a great summer read as it talks about travelling which makes it a perfect to read on holiday. There are images scattered through the novel that are part of the diary Amy writes in which helped to keep track of their journey and made the book extremely easy to follow. The characters were both likeable. Yes, Amy could be a little frustrating at times but other than that it was a good story, especially on holiday. There are parts that are slightly heavier but to be honest, they added to the storyline and so made the book more interesting. The one thing that did irritate me slightly was the fact that some of the main information (trying not to give spoilers here) about why Amy doesn’t drive is not given until near the end of the novel. This is a good feature as the reader really wants to find out, however I did find it rather annoying at times because I just wanted to know! But then again, it did has its desired purpose and made me want to read on, so I guess it worked!

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

Anna finds herself being forced to move to a boarding school in Paris for her final year of school. Here she finds herself feeling isolated due to the language barrier and not knowing anyone. However she quickly forms friendships, in particular with Étienne St. Clair. I would have to say that this is most definitely chick-lit and very much a romance. It is very ‘sweet’ and although I’m not always into books which are solely romantic (usually there has to be some underly ‘deep’ theme). Obviously there are a few twists and turns throughout the novel, it’s not completely upbeat and positive throughout, though these are not frequent and therefore I found this book to be really enjoyable when sitting, relaxing and doing nothing! Being set in Paris, this novel has a slightly exotic feel and made me desperately want to visit again (I fell in love with the city when I visited it last year). Some of the places mentioned I had been to so I was able to relate more and it seemed even more real. This is one of those books that I would reserve for holidays and times when you want to escape stress because it is a really easy and relaxing read. Of the four books that I read, I’d say that this book is the most lighthearted and the easiest read and therefore the most summery. I found it easy to like all of the characters (except the ones that you are supposed to dislike) which made the novel far more enjoyable as it is always good to have a novel where you aren’t frustrated about not liking a character you’re supposed to!

Ask the Passengers – A. S. King

This is the story of Astrid, who is discovering and questioning her sexuality. She finds solace in talking to the passengers on the planes that fly overhead as she feels that they do not judge her. Some of the characters in this book were too easy to dislike, although I got the feeling that I should actually like them. Dee, for example. At times she comes across as a really sweet person (nearer the end mainly) whereas as other points she shows Astrid little respect and I found that irritating. Astrid’s mother is also one of those characters who instantly got on my nerves, although I think this is supposed to be the case. However, I actually liked Astrid herself and though she could come across as whiny and a bit selfish at times, she also was portrayed as honest and down to earth, making her a relatable character. This book has a central focus on philosophy, as that is Astrid’s favourite class. As I actually study it myself I understood some of the references made in the novel, but I did find that they were sufficiently explained in the simplest way. I kind of wish that I’d read it before my exams as its summaries would have been so useful! I’m not sure that I would read this again if I’m honest, mainly because of my dislike for some of the other characters, however for a summer read I did find this a really good choice because it wasn’t too serious, despite the events that in reality would be deemed so. Having said all of that, I did enjoy this book and read it pretty quickly because I didn’t want to put it down. There are a large number of plot twists throughout the novel to keep you interested which is something that I would consider extremely important, especially if the characters are slightly lacking.