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.
I feel like this blurb has just said everything I was about to say (dammit!). Made You Up is a hauntingly beautiful story, and straight from the first sentence, she has you hooked. “Sometimes I think people take reality for granted”. Then the reader is introduced to Alex’s “condition”. Schizophrenia with a touch of paranoia on the side. A mental condition where the victim hallucinates images and even whole worlds that seem so real to the person, they cannot tell the difference between real life and hallucinations.
Have you heard of the phrase “unreliable narrator?” Well, Made You Up is about as unreliable as you can get with a narrator. All throughout the story, Zappia has her reader guessing what’s reality and what’s not, and as you can very well predict, this leaves much scope for heartbreak and tension. Is it possible to make the reader cry over a character that’d never exists? Apparently so. All throughout the story, we are placed in Alex’s shoes, and I’m very glad that Zappia has done this story in the first story, because for the reader to be placed completely in Alex’s shoes, we need to feel everything she feels, we need to see everything she sees, we need to hear everything she hears.
However, although this story deals with harsh themes like mental illness, it is still written in a lighthearted and funny style, making the reader laugh. As with most stories like this, the humour comes through dry, sarcastic wit. “I work at the deli counter. Have to give people their succulent, chemical-ridden salami and whatnot”.
As in most YA novels, there has to be a romance, and the other “one” in this story is Miles, the mysterious foreign boy who everyone seems to be afraid of. NOT as in most YA novels, they don’t both hit off immediately. As in, Alex spills a cup of water on Miles and Miles angrily storms away. However, when they do finally get there, it makes you feel like a massive achievement has happened.
One of the differences this YA novel has from other ones (excluding the whole “schizophrenia” bit) is that there is more than the usual share of action and drama. As in. People-nearly-get-killed drama.
There is actually a lot to this book, and one of the themes runs very deep into the book, and is a very mature, intellectual theme. As Alex struggles with her mental illness, she also struggles with who she is as a person, she struggles with her identity. She has a fear of waking up one day and realising that she doesn’t actually exist at all, that all her life, she has made up, hallucinated, and that she is actually drooling in a hospital somewhere. I believe that Zappia has run a very deep theme through her YA book, and I commend her for this. An extremely good book especially for a debut.
The characters are especially realistic and Zappia certainly has a certain flair for making her characters develop as people throughout the story. Especially because it is written in the first person, the reader finds themselves especially attached to the character(s).
In conclusion, Made You Up is the story of reality and fiction and how sometimes, they can look the same.
Made You Up is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: Made You Up
- Author: Francesca Zappia
Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books (May 19, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006229010X
- URL: Author Website