Made You Up by Francesca Zappia - 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. From Goodreads.
I heard about Made You Up by Francesca Zappia from Cait of Paper Fury, who raved about it on her blog and Instagram. As I trust Cait's judgement and love books on mental health, I quickly bought myself a copy when I saw it in store. I am so, so glad I did, because this book is amazing!
Alex is starting her senior year at a new school, after getting into trouble for graffitiing the gym at her last school due to her paranoid schizophrenia. She's desperate to keep her mental illness underwraps at East Shoal, not wanting people to look at her how they did at her last school, but it's a little difficult when she must constantly be on alert for communists and making sure no-one has bugged or poisoned her food. Because of the graffiti, Alex has to do community service at a new school, and has to join a group of seniors who prepare the gym for any big games. There she meets Miles, who seems strangely familiar, but who the whole school seems scared of. Miles isn't the nicest guy, but there's something about him, and Alex enjoys antagonising him as much as he likes antagonising her. But is Miles someone Alex should really fear? And why is popular Celia suddenly having secret conversations with her bullying mum in the gym, with her mum berating her for not being good enough? What are the plans they talk about? What are they plotting?
Made You Up is the first book I've read with paranoid schizophrenic narrator, and it was fascinating to learn about her illness. In popular culture, people with paranoid schizophrenia are portrayed as being "crazy" and dangerous; talking to themselves while laughing hysterically, and prone to violence. But this isn't who Alex is at all. She can't control her illness - the delusions or her paranoia - but if you get past that, she's just like any other teenage girl. She just happens to be a teenager who has some trouble working out what's reality and what's delusion. To combat this, she brings a camera with her everywhere, taking photos of things she's not sure of; if what she sees isn't in the photo, she knows it's a delusion, and to ignore it. It's her paranoia that causes her the most trouble. She has a huge fear of communists and nazis, and whereever she goes, she has to do parameter checks; make sure she's aware of her surroundings, be certain no-one has a weapon and will jump out and attack her, and she constantly checks her food for tracers or poisons - even food her mum makes her. She doesn't want to be doing this, but she can't let go of the fear that communists are going to hurt her. But otherwise, she's a girl who does her homework, is desperate to get into college, and just wants to make friends and live a normal life.
At times, it's really quite heartbreaking and shocking just how real Alex's delusions are. She has trouble working out what's real and what isn't, and there are a few unexpected twists along the way; things Alex brushes off as delusions, and things it would never occur to her to doubt are real. These revelations are seriously hardhitting, and unbelievably sad. It's so hard to see Alex realise that she really can't trust herself at all; how is she supposed to know?
But there is Miles, the enigma that Alex can't seem to stay away from. Those eyes! Those eyes that look so similar to those of a boy she met as a seven year old, who she was so sure was a delusion. Is Miles Blue Eyes, or did she really make Blue Eyes up? And why is she so drawn to him, otherwise? The romance is slow and uncertain at first, but it's so sweet, and really, really wonderful. I love Miles. He has his own problems, and he does bad things for the right reasons, and he's dodgy but so good! He's not your typical "bad boy", he's not danegrous. He's just a guy doing what he can, in a world that confuses him. I adored Miles.
What's interesting about Made You Up is that it's not just a contemporary story about someone with paranoid schizophrenia with a romance, but it's also a mystery. Principle McCoy has a strange, unhealthy obsession and attachment with the gym's scoreboard. Why? Something weird is happening with Celia; Alex overhears conversations between Celia and her mother, and McCoy and Celia's mother. As far as her mother's concerned, Celia must be the most popular person to have ever lived, and she has McCoy trying to help her daughter. But there's really something fishy going on; Celia's mother is determined to see her plans come to fruition, and adament that Celia do as she's told. But what are her plans? What are the three of them plotting together? And what does it have to do with Miles? It was really interesting, because, is there really something strange happening with those three, or is Alex's mind creating delusions? With Alex's paranoid schizophrenia, you're never quite sure if what you're reading is true.
Made You Up is absolutely incredible, and a stunning debut from Zappia. I am so excited to read what she writes in future. And look at that cover! God, it's gorgeous!
Published: 19th May 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Francesca Zappia's Website