Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Genre: YA / Mental Illness / Romance
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. 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 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. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her? 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 was an interesting and thought-provoking read. I was immediately captivated with the prologue, ‘The Freeing of the Lobsters’ which showed me that this story would offer humour as well as tenderly dealing with some hard topics at the same time. Made You Up follows Alex’s journey as she starts at a new school after being kicked out of her old school because of a graffiti incident (communists!). Things aren’t easy for Alex, because she is a paranoid schizophrenic who struggles to tell the difference between reality and illusion. There seems to be a lot of strange things going on at her new school, and not being able to tell what’s real and what isn’t could lead Alex and her new friends in to danger.
Alex is a super-awesome main character. She is a history-buff who is also feisty, sassy, and lots of fun, despite the fact that she is struggling to deal with her illness. Over time she has developed interesting techniques for handling her schizophrenia, including perimeter checks, photography, and a magic 8-ball. These strategies lead to interesting and sometimes humorous moments, and I really liked the way the idea of the magic 8-ball was used throughout the book. Alex is a refreshing character who is both heartbreaking and empowering – and I really felt for her during the story.
I am a HUGE fan of the unreliable narrator trope because it creates so much tension and mystery and it’s so much fun trying to figure out what is really going on. Being someone who can’t tell the difference between reality and her hallucinations, Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator. This led to a lot of surprising twists throughout the story, and things got really intense towards the end. I actually got goose bumps during some of the big plot-twists.
There are also lots of great supporting characters and the hate-to-love romance between Alex and Miles is super cute. Miles is a bit of an oddball, someone who doesn’t let anyone in close to him. He is a mysterious figure, sometimes a jerk, and we are never really sure how he feels. There is a lot of banter between Miles and Alex and they get off to a really rocky start. The way they slowly become friends and then something more is lots of fun, and I think they end up being really good for each other because they each provide the other with an anchor in the real world.
All of Alex’s friends have been bullied in school. Bullying is actually a pretty important topic in this story, particularly in relation to Alex’s mental illness. All she really wants is to be accepted for who she is, and I think it’s great how Made You Up shows a group of outcasts banding together and forming solid friendships. They are all different and they all accept each other, and Alex finds that having a mental illness will not prevent her from finding true friendship and also love.
Made You Up is also one of those books that will challenge the way that you think about other people. Every character in this story has a reason for being the way that they are, and the further into the story you get the more you discover. I loved delving into the lives of the characters and discovering their big reveals – I thought all the characters were really interesting and complex, even mean-girl Cilia has a backstory that really twists everything around.
My only semi-complaint about this book is that the middle-section dragged a bit, for me. My interest faded a little (a LITTLE) because I wasn’t really sure why I should care so much about the scoreboard that kept cropping up (as it turns out, there is a very good reason for caring about the scoreboard and I should have stopped my scoreboard doubt and just continued). The ending made up for it all, though, and it was very exhilarating. The plot-twists made me want to curl up forever on my couch.
Overall, I think that Made You Up is an excellent story. It will give you all the feels because it deals with tough topics like mental illness, bullying, and some of the difficult things that everyday teens go through in real life. The characters are heart-warming and refreshing, and you will want to hug Alex and tell her that things are going to be okay.
“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said.
“You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”
I would also just like to take a moment to celebrate the cover of Made You Up because it is SUPER PRETTY and I am frothing over it.