Made You Up
by Francesca Zappia
Read: January 31 - February 2, 2015
Published: May 19, 2015 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, HarperCollins!)
Category: YA, schizophrenia, contemporary, high school, romance
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Description: 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.
Made You Up is the story of Alex who is schizophrenic and doesn't always know what is real. As she is the narrator, neither do we. This makes for an interesting - and nerve-wracking - reading experience at times. The author did a great job at putting us inside of Alex's head, and making us both empathize and second guess everything along with her. This story is heartbreaking at times, but through it all, I felt hope. This is girl is not giving up, despite the odds she faces. (I kept thinking Alex and Peeta needed to hang out and play a round of Real, Not Real.)
Miles is the love interest, and he isn't your typical YA guy pick, but he's perfect for Alex. I didn't like Miles at first. He can be a jerk and isn't great with emotions, but Alex challenges him right back, which is something that he needs. In return, Miles accepts Alex for who she is without judgement. He's not afraid to tell her the truth - and she'll do the same for him. Their honest conversations, moments of vulnerability and slowly building romance were favorite parts of this story. SO GOOD, guys.
In addition to Miles, Alex makes other friends, which is a big deal for her. My favorite is Tucker. However, I'm very happy that there is absolutely no hint of a love triangle in this story, and that Alex is able to have guy friends without that confusion.
Alex's relationship with her parents was far more complex than I anticipated, and though they didn't always make the best decisions, it's clear they love their daughter. I wanted to dislike them at times, but I was able to understand how hard it would be to know what was best for your child - how do you protect your daughter while also letting her live her own life? Although we were inside of Alex's head, I appreciated that we were able to see a little bit of their side too. It added layers to this story. But I'm also glad that Alex learns to make her own decisions and speak up for herself, and others, especially in terms of her decision near the end of this book.
The central elements of this story are very compelling and thoughtfully written: Alex's daily struggle to figure out what is real, Miles' character and their growing romance. Several strong revelations and emotional moments surround those themes, and made this book already a favorite 2015 contemporary.
However, a few of the story lines didn't work as well for me. A mystery involving a scoreboard, the school principle and another classmate takes up a decent amount of time in the book. However, I found this plot to be confusing at times (I'm pretty sure that was intended), and less interesting than some of the other other events that illustrate Alex's struggles with reality. The eventual revelation surrounding this part also ended up being more unsettling than I imagined, but then it was quickly resolved and dropped at the end, which left me a bit unsettled. Also, Miles has some tough home issues, and I kept hoping they'd be addressed earlier and more directly. When that did happen, it took place very quickly, and mostly off screen. For me, they needed a bit more attention than they were given by the end. I think that perhaps there were a few too many plots overall, and that caused a some of the side ones to feel rushed.
Last thoughts: I'm a fan of books that tackle mental health issues. For some reason, diagnoses that affect our minds often make us more nervous than physical ones. But though Alex will always struggle with knowing if what she's seeing is real - and she will certainly need people (and meds) to help her along the way, that doesn't mean she's excluded from a life filled with love and other good things. I love when Alex's friend Tucker says, "My dad has schizophrenic patients. He calls them 'normal people with more quirks." It was rewarding to see Alex make friends and surround herself with people she can trust to be there when she falters. Even if our minds have less quirks than Alex's mind does, we all need that in our lives.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone