Made You Up by Francesca ZappiaMade You Up by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow Books on May 19th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental health
Pages: 448

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.

4 Stars

Made You Up is a refreshing debut novel on tackling daily life with the burden of a mental disorder, told from the perspective of a lovely but unreliable narrator. What is real and what is made up, reader will have to find out by themselves, which makes Made You Up a unique and exciting reading experience. Books on mental health, especially paranoid schizophrenia, can be a challenge to write, but I’m glad Zappia dared to take this step.

Go into this book, trust nothing but enjoy everything else.

Read this book if you have a soft spot for:

Red hair the colour of lobsters (Alex swears it’s not dyed)
German cussing (or just cuss words in general)
Mental disorders (pssst schizophrenia)
Unreliable narrators and insane supporting protagonists (in the best sense!)
Geeks and loonies
– Rivalries, pranks, and other necessities of the high school experience
Breaking and entering (yeah, there’s a lot of that…)
Beautiful book covers (I mean, just look at iiiit)
– Also snakes possibly?

“Believing something existed and then finding out it didn’t was like reaching the top of the stairs and thinking there was one more step.”

Made You Up offers a diverse cast of teenagers struggling with their own issues, be it mental health or school performance or domestic violence or just geekiness. Alex is a likeable and flawed heroine, leading you through a world of reality crashing with vivid hallucinations. You know, suffering from a mental disorder can be exhausting, and you’d think someone like Alex would eventually just give up on leading a normal life at a normal high school with normal friends and normal teenage experiences. But Alex is a fighter, an optimist, and she won’t have her schizophrenia destroy her life. Her point of view is utterly amazing, as she questions everyone and everything. Why is this person smiling at her? Could her food possibly have been poisoned? And then she starts school, only to find that the biggest challenge isn’t her disorder but Miles.

The supporting protagonists were great in general, but most of all, I cared for the hilarious male lead and love interest, Miles. What you need to know about Miles? He’s a snarky little shit. He’s a complex but charismatic character who struggles with loneliness and battles his very own demons at home. Although Alex is the one suffering from a mental disorder, his level of craziness goes through the roof. The pranks this dude pulls will have you realize that a severe disorder is not necessarily the only requirement for insanity.

frozen elsa photo: Olaf - He's crazy tumblr_mxmm20LTGS1shcqoxo1_500_zpsd9110971.gif

What did I miss in this debut? I’m not actually sure what I was waiting for, just that I was waiting for something mind-blowing to happen, a big build-up and ecstasy at the end. Though there were unforeseen twists, I guess I was hoping to feel a tad more excitement (but perhaps that what I get from reading too much fantasy). Furthermore, I thought Zappia hadn’t fully explored the disorder’s potential. Although the portrayal of hallucinations and paranoia is, in my humble opinion, fairly realistic, there is so much more to paranoid schizophrenia than that (for example, derealization, a symptom characterized by the blurring of self and other). Of course, this is not a must-have for all schizophrenic patients, but it might’ve covered a wider spectrum of the disorder. Plus, it would have been interesting to show how this particular disorder is treated, other than with antipsychotics. Oh well, I don’t wish for the book to be overly “sciency”, as this is not the focus of the book, but it could’ve been a bit more informative for readers who don’t have an inkling about mental disorders and, in particular, schizophrenia. And yes I think I just outed myself as a clinical psychology major.

“People say teenagers think they’re immortal, and I agree with that. But I think there’s a difference between thinking you’re immortal and knowing you can survive. Thinking you’re immortal leads to arrogance, thinking you deserve the best. Surviving means having the worst thrown at you and being able to continue on despite that. It means striving for what you want most, even when it seems our of your reach, even when everything is working against you.”

In a nutshell, Made You Up is a beautiful and imaginative YA contempoary with a well chosen, important topic and a wonderfully unreliable narrator who will constantly have you guessing what is a hallucination and what is real. Is it a tale of the powers of adolescents to overcome even the most severe obstacles, like your brain trying to get in the way of your life.