Made You Up
by Francesca Zappia
Expected Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Length: 448 pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
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.
I tend to stay away from YA books that deal with mental health issues because all too often I find the portrayal infuriating at best and insulting at worst. However, because Made You Up was upfront about what the story was about and I became convinced Alex’s schizophrenia wouldn’t just be used for a cheap shock, so I decided to tentatively put it on my TBR. I’ll be honest–that cover helped too.
Unlike the few other books I’ve read that deal with mental health, Alex knows her diagnosis right at the start of the story. Made You Up isn’t about what affects Alex(at least, not exactly), it’s about her coping with it and figuring out what’s real and not real. Made You Up did a fantastic job of getting into Alex’s head space and how disorienting it would be to be unable to tell reality from non-reality.
One of the largest threads that run through Made You Up is the mystery of Miles. When Alex has to change schools, she meets Miles. The problem is that he reminds her of a boy she met in the grocery store once–during a hallucination. That time in the grocery store is the first time Alex is aware of her hallucinations, so she assumes that she made Miles up in her head. Now, years later she’s confronted with the idea that something she had convinced herself was part of a hallucination may be real.
Alex’s troubles worsen as she learns of something sinister going on at the school, drawn into Miles’ crowd and his way of running strange jobs in exchange for money(mostly by classmates trying to get revenge on one another). Alex knows that with her condition, nobody will believe her. Increasingly, it’s harder for her to tell her hallucinations and reality a part.
I found Made You Up treated everything with nuance. Alex’s condition is a HUGE part of her life, but it isn’t its entirety. Along with her schizophrenia, she has to deal with the normal day-to-day teenage stuff: homework, weird teachers, her after school job, etc. Alex’s character arc was heartbreaking at times, but also done so well.
There are so many layers to Made You Up it’s hard to discuss without spoilers, but I found myself entrenched in the story of Alex and Miles. I found myself often wondering the same things as Alex did, and cheered her on when things went her way. My heart also broke when she had particularly bad episodes or when the hits just kept on coming.
In the end, I found myself utterly engrossed in Alex’s story. I wanted to know what happened, and more than anything, I wanted her to be safe and okay. Made You Up was an excellent close look at a character with schizophrenia and I thought the story was handled with the care it deserved.
Made You Up was quite the fascinating read. I found myself being drawn into Alex’s world and wanting to know what happened, what was real, and what her life would be. 4/5 cupcakes.