Friday 16 August 2013

Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN  9781922147257
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Zac and Mia is the third Young Adult novel by Perth author, A.J. Betts and also the 2012 winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s writing. It is suitable for readers 15 years and older.

Zac Meier, a 17 year old boy, is trapped in a hospital room recovering from a bone marrow transplant- a very invasive procedure used to treat leukaemia. The patient’s bone marrow is sucked out and a donor’s marrow is pumped back in. You might think this does not sound like a very exciting plot... but I urge you to keep reading.

After the bone marrow transplant Zac has to stay in isolation to give the cells the best chance to settle into his body. Hence he is trapped in this small hospital room for a total of 47 days- 33 of those days he has the annoying company of his anxious mother. In the room next door to Zac another patient is being admitted. We hear her before we see her. This young girl is angry. She shouts at her mother and insists on playing jarring loud music that beats rudely through the wall. However, an intriguing friendship develops between kind, gentle Zac and wild, enraged Mia. A timid knock on the wall leads to a note, messages on Facebook and a sharing of feelings much deeper than usually experienced.

Zac and Mia don’t meet properly until they leave hospital. Both kids have difficulty finding where they fit back in the ‘normal’ world. Not only do they have to deal with their own medical problems but it’s also hard to juggle the concerns, fears and reactions of their friends and families. Zac and Mia’s unique bond helps them to put many of these things into perspective.

Betts cleverly uses first person duel narratives to tell this story. She quietly moves from Zac’s perspective to Mia’s allowing us to get inside the mind of each character. A.J. Betts has painted Zac and Mia with strong colours. I was drawn into their lives. I felt their anger, injustice and pain. I empathised with both families. I admired the courage, the honesty and the sense of hope. But I also laughed at the humour and cheered for the successes. These two characters will stay in my heart.

A.J. Betts has written two other YA novels- Shutterspeed and Wavelength.

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