Zac & Mia by AJ Betts

Friday, April 11, 2014

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 they both need each other, always.

I think what was most striking about this novel was the human aspect of it - so often novels for teenagers marketed as realistic are anything but. Zac and Mia, on the other hand, seems profoundly real - people are deeply flawed (Mia most especially), little is romanticised, but their story remains compelling. 

Unlike so many other books in this genre there does not seem to be an effort to tug at heartstrings - which is not to say that you don't feel anything while reading - anything but. But it seems manipulating the reader's emotions doesn't play into it. Sure, I like books that I can expect an emotional rollercoaster out of, that fit the formula and play up the melodrama - but what is so remarkable about this one is the realness. 

It's wonderfully crafted and emotionally insightful but it isn't obvious. A very, very human novel and one I wouldn't recommend solely to teenage readers, though it speaks beautifully of the teenage experience.

Zac & Mia on the publisher's website
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