I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow Books on May 19th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Mental Health, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.
Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.
When I first heard about Made You Up, I was instantly excited about it. I’m usually all about the light and fluffy contemporaries, but a main character with schizophrenia? A completely unreliable narrator, unsure of what is real and what is not? That was a premise that was way too interesting to pass up. And I’m glad I didn’t. This is a stunning debut by Francesca Zappia, and a story that will stay with me for a very long time.
Made You Up follows Alex, a paranoid schizophrenic, who is starting out at a new school for senior year after a breakdown at her last school where she spray painted “COMMUNISTS” on the gym floor. She was diagnosed when she was 7 or 8, and since then it’s been a constant battle to figure out what is real and what isn’t. I didn’t know much about how paranoid schizophrenia manifests itself, so I was instantly drawn into her story and so amazed by the way she sees the world. She’s aware that her mind plays tricks on her and takes pictures of anything she isn’t sure is real, looking over them later to see which delusions fade. She has to check her food for tracers and poison and her environment for cameras and bugs. And she does all this as discretely as possible, so people won’t live in fear of the crazy girl. So – much – sympathy.
But she’s not entirely defined by her condition. One of the things I loved most about this book is just how normal she manages to live. She has a feisty, quirky, adorable personality, she has natural bright lobster red hair, she’s a history buff loaded with millions of obscure facts, she loves her little sister to pieces, and she dreams of going to college. She becomes friends with other misfits in her school due to the community service club she’s forced to be in, and they have such great adventures and conversations. There were so many moments when I was just laughing out loud – this book filled my heart with glee.
And a definite contributor to that glee has to be the romance between Alex and Miles. Oh. My. God. I ship it really really hard. Miles is a genius and an enigma – most of the school is scared of him, and he doesn’t exactly come across as friendly. But there’s a reason for that – adding even more to the neurodiversity of this book. Miles is a jerk, and Alex doesn’t hesitate to tell him so. The two start off pretty resentful to each other – and if you know me, you know that’s my jam. I was giggling and so excited for these kids to get it through their heads that they needed to be together, and they pretty much had the best relationship progression. There were a lot of barriers that had to come down, they really had to work to understand each other, but when they did it was so freaking sweet. Miles is the best support for Alex, and she understands him like pretty much no one else. My heart beats for this ship and I love it so!
There is also, however, a mystery element to the story. Rather soon after Alex starts at the new school, she becomes a target for Celia, a mean girl who is (obviously) crushing on Miles. The mean girl antics at first came off as quite cliché and annoying – and unfortunately the reason for Celia’s fascination with Miles never really became clear – but quickly it becomes apparent that there’s something else going on here. Though we know of Alex’s mental situation, Celia definitely doesn’t seem stable either. There’s something going on between her, her mother, and the school principal – who has his own worrying obsessions. Alex is drawn to this mystery, trying to figure it out while questioning if it’s real and dangerous or just a delusion. It’s a different kind of mystery and it sure kept me turning the pages.
What I wanted above all from Made You Up, considering the premise and this unreliable narrator, was a showstopping shocking moment – the kind that would rip my heart to pieces. (No pressure.) Well, Zappia delivered. When the plot was heating up and gaining intensity leading me steadily in one direction, there was a twist so enormous and unexpected that all I could do was toss my e-reader on my bed, scream into my pillow, and grasp in the air for nothing at all. In certain ways I should’ve seen it coming, but I was so drawn into the story and connected to the characters that I was completely deceived. My heart burst out of my chest and shattered all over the floor, and all I wanted to do was hug Alex close to me because GODDAMMIT WHY?????
At that point, I knew that this story had been imprinted on my soul, and I had no choice but to continue reading the last 20% or so of the book until I finally finished at 1 am. I am not a late night reader at all, and it’s been ages since I felt such a need to keep reading until I was done, so this is a tremendously good thing. I just felt so much love for Alex, Miles, and even Tucker, and I just needed to know what was going on with the Celia mystery and the answers to all the other burning questions I still had.
Ultimately, though most of those questions were answered and it was an emotionally laden and intense ending, I do feel like it maybe had a tiny bit too much going on for me. With Alex’s personal crises, Miles’s messed up family situation, and the mystery between Celia, her mother, and the principal, it kind of lost that realistic quality that I liked so much about the first part of the book. Though you mostly gain a sense of what really happened and what Alex’s mind embellished, it was kind of hazy and rushed at the end there. Particularly Celia’s mystery remains a bit awkward for me, not only due to the vague ending, but also because it seemed rather implausible and I think I spotted a mild plot hole in the mystery that I hope will be fixed in the finished copy. I do feel that the ending is fitting, considering who our narrator is, but this is the reason the book didn’t quite get to the perfect score for me.