Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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This book is as beautiful as the cover art. Seriously… I want this picture on my wall, and I want everything else the cover artist has ever made. The use of water colours with this static image of a girl is stunning. The movement of the blue water colours makes it look like the book is crying. I just love it!
If you haven’t already guessed, I will make it plain.
Yes, I committed a Book Baby faux pas… I judged this book by its cover.
Luckily, it lived up to the expectations the artwork put forth.

This novel explores the reality of living with schizophrenia, specifically at an age where the choices you make begin to shape your life.
Alex is a high school senior that can’t tell what’s real and what’s a delusion. All she wants to do is get through the year with minimal incidents so she can attend college. She seems to stand a chance until her past catches up to her. A boy from one of her childhood delusions begins to show up again. Alex can’t help but question everything that led her to this moment, and now wonders if the incident that brought forth her diagnosis wasn’t an illusion after all.

Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator. The reader can’t believe anything she says because she can’t believe it. Zappia blurs the lines beyond recognition. Even when something happens that involves another character that is established in reality, we can’t trust what they say or do because the entire novel is Alex’s recount of the events. Everything she sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches could be a lie. The uncertainty is what makes this book such a page turner. So her senses might be unreliable, but I find that her feelings and reactions to the events are genuine. For example, meeting Miles for the first time after the lobster incident may or may not have been real, but her frightened, confused and intrigued reaction to this is real.

I love the quirks of Zappia’s novel; the strange moments and things that make this book and the characters unique. The way that Alex uses a camera to covertly take pictures of the world to separate fact from fiction is smart and humorous. I also love her magic 8-ball because it’s the one thing that may just be more unreliable than her! And the way she meets Miles as a child is adorable. I love their fascination with the lobster tank in relation to Alex’s red hair, and then the mayhem that unfolds after the lobsters ‘escape’.

Alex and Miles are sort of odd and a bit unlikable on their own, but they seem to have this charming way of balancing each other out until you love them. Alex is understandably antisocial because no one seems to understand her, but this results in moody behaviour that makes you want to play the world’s smallest violin as you mutter boo hoo. I’m not saying anything negative against schizophrenics, because her moody attitude is reminiscent of anyone moody you have met in your lifetime; the kind of people who think they’re the only ones with problems, and they wail about it to get attention. Everyone has their shit to work through, but you don’t see them all using it to define them or affect their daily interactions. Alex begins the novel as one of those girls, as I’m sure Zappia intended. This makes the reader like her more after she spends time with Miles, for she drops her negativity and begins to find a way to be ‘normal’, as she puts it. She goes to parties, makes friends, and falls in love.

Miles is a bit of a prick on his own, but with Alex he begins to wise up and learns to say and act in a somewhat proper way. He becomes a very likable character, even if he’s still just a product of Alex’s imagination. As far as we know, Alex may have just made the entire thing up just to feel ‘normal’ for once, and in doing so she could be worse off than before. Even if this is not what Zappia intended (maybe we’re supposed to accept the easy root and take Alex’s word that Miles is real), I’d prefer the idea that Miles never existed and this was all just one of her episodes. In her attempts to make it through senior year to college, she actually made things worse.
And interesting twist, don’t you think?
I’ll choose to believe this for my amusement.

I also enjoy the pace at which this novel progresses, specifically when analyzing the love between Alex and Miles. They take their time to get to know each other, so their attachment seems more believable by the end of the novel. I always hate it when high school students (both real and fictional ) fall in love within the same week they met. I call bullshit!

This book reminded me a little of Silver Linings Playbook, and not just because the two main characters are diagnosed with a mental illness like Alex is. No, it’s more in the fact that their main characters were equally unlikable on their own, but just like Alex and Miles, tou begin to like and understand them when they begin to spend more time together. They balance each other out, which makes the relationship valuable.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I hope you fall in love with this odd couple and enjoy their story, Book Babies!

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