Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Hardcover, 428 pages
Published: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: YA - Contemporary - Mental Illness
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.
Did I Make You Up?
This book left me speechless. Made You Up is an amazing portrait of schizophrenia, a haunting novel that leaves you with a question: how would you live if you couldn't tell apart between reality and hallucination? This book is so wonderfully written that you can't help but putting yourself in Alex's shoes, while you try to understand with her what's real and what's not.
I particularly enjoy books told by unreliable narrators, and this one is no exception: you, the reader, think you can distinguish between reality and hallucination (snipers on the roof of the school are OBVIOUSLY not real!), yet you're fooled by Alex's voice into believing that some hallucinations are real! Alex felt authentic, and it seems to me that the author did her research, although I don't know much more than the basics about schizophrenia. I like that Alex refuses to be defined by her illness, she wants a shot at a normal life, she wants to go to college and in order to achieve her goals, she tries to act as normal as possible. She ignores the hallucinations, she keeps shooting photos of her surroundings, trusting that, in time, they will only show what's real when she looks at them.
I also must praise this book for the lack of the love-triumphs-over-illness trope. Every time a book features a character who suffers from mental illness who's miraculously cured by a love story, I start to cringe! The romance between Miles and Alex is slow burn, and it takes some time for Alex to feel safe enough when Miles is with her to not do her perimeter checks for possible threats. At the beginning Miles is a little bit unlikeable, but then it grows on you and you start hoping the ending won't crush your dreams (and Alex and Miles' dreams!).
I have a few criticisms, though, and this is what made me give this book 4 stars instead of 5. Sometimes I felt like there was no actual plot and no climax. I enjoyed living in Alex's shoes, but I felt too detached from the whole Celia plot (I'm being deliberately vague because I don't want to spoil anything!) and I didn't understand the reasons behind Miles' decisions towards the end. Moreover, I found the ending a little bit rushed and it left some loose ends.
Overall, Made You Up is a very compelling book that you don't want to miss, especially if you love YA contemporary or are interested in mental illness. I also enjoyed Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, which also deals with schizophrenia, although it's a little bit more confusing that Made You Up!