Book review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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I have been wanting to read this book for awhile now, and luckily for me, it was finally not checked out at my library!  I thought I’d like it.  It sounded like something I might enjoy.  I didn’t expect to fall head-over-heels in love with it.

Alex is a teenage girl suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  She experiences delusions and hallucinations and often relies on her trusty digital camera to help her decipher what’s real and what she’s made up in her head.  After an unfortunate incident involving spray paint and the gym floor at her old high school, she heads off to East Shoal High School for her senior year.  It’s there that she finally finds true friends who like her in spite of her problems.

Miles is the teenage boy that everybody’s afraid of.  He’s made a name for himself by being willing to do just about anything to anybody… for the right price.  But that’s something he needed to do, because without that reputation, he’s just a skinny boy with a weird accent and no friends.  Miles isn’t just your stereotypical bad boy, he’s a complex character with his own backstory and his own motivations.

Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t have schizophrenia, so I can’t really tell you whether the portrayal is accurate.  But I can tell you that the emotions this book made me feel were insane.  My heart went out to Alex as she struggled to decipher what was real and what was in her head.  As she fought with her mother about how much freedom she should be allowed to have.  As her world was shattered when it turned out that one of the staples in her life wasn’t real.  Or when things she thought she had to have made up turned out to be real.  I think I went through a complete range of emotions while reading this book.  I consider that a good thing.

The thing that I think I loved the most about this book, though, was that there’s no instalove to be found.  It’s not like Alex and Miles lock eyes from across the room, and suddenly they’re meant to be.  Their connection builds slowly and realistically, and best of all, Miles doesn’t save Alex from her illness.  He doesn’t have a magical touch that cures her.  Sure, she feels safer when he’s around since she knows he’ll never lie to her, but he encourages her to get treatment and supports her when she does.  Imagine that.

Since we’re inside Alex’s head, we’re never sure what’s real and what’s not. I loved that. She’s the perfect unreliable narrator because she’s not purposely misleading us.  She’s not lying to further an agenda.  She’s telling her story as she sees it, even if how she sees it isn’t really how it is.  Are events as strange as they sound?  Are her classmates and teachers really how she describes them?  Did a snake really just pop down through the ceiling?  Some answers we get, and some we don’t.  And, the thing is, we really don’t need to know for sure.  Half the fun of this book was trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t.

I’m sure that this book isn’t perfect, but I absolutely adored it.  I have to say, I feel sorry for the book that comes after this one.

Final rating: ★★★★★

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