Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (May 19th)
Source: Review copy from publisher
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.
After an incident when Alex was seven years old, when she tried to free some lobsters, her family realized something wasn’t right with her; but she wasn’t diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia until years later. Since her diagnosis Alex has tried to live a normal life or as normal as her illness allows her. She has learned some coping mechanisms and techniques that help her deal with her illness. Some of them are perimeter checks every time she enters a room or goes to a new place. She also takes hundreds of pictures everyday; when she gets home she checks her pictures to see if what she originally saw was real or if it was a delusion.
Alex is starting her senior year in a new high school. Meeting new people and pretending to be normal is not an easy job, but Alex needs to do it to prove to her parents and to herself that she’s doing better.
It’s at the school that she meets Miles, a guy that reminds her of the boy who helped her free the lobsters and whom she thought was a delusion.
Trying to fit in a new school while keeping her illness a secret, making friends, applying to colleges, investigating a mystery concerning the haunted school’s scoreboard and falling in love take all of Alex time and energy, and went her secret comes to the light Alex learns some hard truths that could destroy her.
Alex is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. We see the world through her eyes, but we don’t know if what she sees is reality or delusions and she knows this as well. My heart broke more than once for her. I can’t imagine how it must be to know that what you see may not be real, that people you know and count as friends maybe just a delusion, and how hard it must be to pretend you are normal and everything is ok with you when you know your reality most probably is a delusion.
One of the things I like the most about Alex is that she is conscious of her illness and her limitations, but that doesn’t deter her in hoping for a better future for her. She just wants to have a normal life or as normal as her illness allows her. She wants to have friends, to go out with them. She wants to go to college and have a future where she could thrive despite her shortcomings.
On the beginning I didn’t like Miles, but after a while, when I learned more about him I was able to understand his behavior. I’m almost sure he could be diagnosed in the autism spectrum, although his behavior is never referred as that in the story. My heart also broke for him, for what he is forced to do and endure.
I really liked Alex and Miles together. I loved how Miles accepts Alex the way she is and helps her deal with her illness. The same way Alex knew Miles brain work in a different way and was able to understand him when nobody else could.
The secondary characters enrich the story even more. We see Alex’s parents dealing as best as they can with Alex illness. Sometimes they succeed, others they fail while doing what they thought was best for her.
Another character I really liked was Tucker. I loved how easily he accepted Alex and was there for her when she needed him despite everything that happened between them. I can’t say more without giving too much away. I can only say, read this book, you won’t regret it.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia was everything I was expecting it to be and more. With her spotless writing Zappia gives voice to a difficult topic like mental illness in kids/young people and the stigma it has on society. It also shows us how wrong we are in many cases and how easy it’s to judge when we don’t really know anything about it.
The thing that kept me from giving Made You Up a five paws (stars) rating was the end. It felt a bit rushed… or maybe I loved Alex so much I just wanted a little more.
I recommend Made You Up to everyone, especially to those who like unreliable narrators. Francesca Zappia surprised me in a good way with this, her debut novel. I’m planning on following her closely from now on.
My Verdict: 4 ½ Paws
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