Review Blog

Sep 02 2013

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

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Text, 2013. ISBN 9781922147257.
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Winner of the Text Prize, 2012. Zac is in hospital undergoing another round of cancer treatments when he hears the girl in the next room. She is loud and feisty and plays her music very loudly. Zac makes contact with Mia by tapping on the wall and from there a friendship grows that neither expects.
With a family history of cancer, I usually avoid books about the topic, but decided to read this one as it had won the Text Prize and I had enjoyed other Text Prize winners. I am pleased that I did as it was not a tear jerker, but rather a story that showed the enormous courage and resilience that cancer sufferers must have, not just when in hospital getting treatment, but also when they go home and face a future that is different to what they had planned. It was an uplifting and emotional journey for me, with the compassion and humour of the writing making it a wonderful reading experience.
Zac is a character who is easy to like. He is funny and straight forward and manages his fears by quoting all sorts of statistics about cancer and trying to be positive. (The reader learns a lot about cancer on the way). He is surrounded by an overprotective but very loving mother and family. Mia on the other hand is angry, angry about her cancer, furious with her mother and bitterly disappointed in her boyfriend. She is careless about her health and her relationships. Both come to need each other at different times, relying on each other's strengths. The book clearly showed the importance of support for cancer sufferers from family and friends, even if it is shunned at the time.
A.J. Betts has spent years as a hospital teacher, and her research, knowledge of hospitals, patients and their routines shines through, giving the story a feeling of depth and authenticity. I can highly recommend this book as a possible literature circle or class set book in schools and a must have in libraries.
Pat Pledger

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