#NaNoWriMo: Z is for… Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

“Google tells me everything I need to know about death except what comes after.”

– A.J. Betts, Zac & Mia

Oh boy! November has been the longest month and I am so thankful that I didn’t attempt the real NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words… I have barely slept as it is! It has been a big month but I am proud of what I have achieved. Writing doesn’t come naturally and I have to work hard for every word you read. The final book is Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts. I racked my brains trying to think of a book beginning with Z, completely forgetting this one was on my shelf.

Zac & Mia is a cancer story, but before you roll your eyes and walk away, this isn’t just another ‘sick-lit’ title like The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The difference? This is a book about cancer with a little side of love; The Fault in our Stars is a love story with a touch of cancer. Zac is stuck in isolation in the oncology ward, bored out his brain. One day, a new girl moves into the room next door and Zac finally has something to occupy his time. A tentative friendship is struck, first by a series of knocks on the wall between their beds, and then moving to online messaging. The friendship is an unusual one; Zac and Mia’s lives would not have intersected had it not been for cancer. Their hospital friendship becomes the only thing dragging them through the tough times. Zac is a model patient, assessing his situation with reason and logic. On the other hand, Mia is angry with everyone and everything. She is emotional and impulsive and refuses to acknowledge the situation she is in. Their cancer journeys are very different but their friendship continues to care, heal and support.

I will admit that I approached this book with a small amount of cynicism. The first mention of cancer and I assumed it was a TFIOS follow on. What I wasn’t expecting was a story that stands out on its own. At the heart of this book is a story about the healing nature of friendship. Zac and Mia’s relationship is tentative, strained, ignored and needed. The book is split into 3 parts; the first is told by Zac, the second a mix of the two, and the final part is all Mia. This allows the reader a complete view of their developing friendship and the reader feels like they really get to know the characters. Betts’ writing is easy to read and her descriptions are fantastic although she does over-share with the details at times.

The characters are a delight! Zac is easy to like from the start and while it takes a long time to warm to Mia, I feel the strength of Betts’ writing is in her ability to bring the reader around to liking Mia, and maintaining the readers interest. Of all the cancer stories I have read, this one feels the most realistic. The emotions come across at natural and so does the development in Zac and Mia’s relationship. A great read!

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