Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Review: Made You Up by Francesca ZappiaMade You Up by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow on May 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

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 bought Made You Up after Debby (Snuggly Oranges) flailed at me most vociferously about it last year. When Debby does that, I’m generally going to immediately acquire said book, even if I’m not so good about promptly reading them. What can I say? Debby knows what I like. *waggles eyebrows suggestively* Made You Up captured me with its strong voice on page one and basically wrecked me emotionally in the good way continuously.

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that I never had a review copy of this, since I have a bad tendency to download any Harper title that looks remotely interesting. My guess is that I skipped this one because it looked sad, and I tend to like my contemporary novels fluffy as Lenore’s cat Emmy. To be fair, I was right. This book does get really sad and really heavy. However, Made You Up is the sort of sad book that I love, one that retains a sense of humor and isn’t just non-stop tragedy.

Unreliable narrators aren’t uncommon in fiction, and they can be amazing. Alex falls into that category, much as she wishes she didn’t. However, this isn’t because she’s deceitful or lying to herself precisely; Alex is schizophrenic. She tries so incredibly hard to discern what around her is real and what’s not real. She takes pictures throughout the day of anything that looks possibly out of place, so that she can check later to see if it was really there. She takes her meds to help cut down on the hallucinations and the paranoia.

The thing is, though, that even on the meds, Alex still sees and hears a lot of stuff that’s not there. Schizophrenia isn’t a mental illness I know very much about, aside from the fact that a lot of homeless people are schizophrenic. Seeing the world through Alex’s head, I understand a lot more than I did. Her world is, in a lot of ways, brighter and more beautiful when she’s having an episode, but it’s also completely terrifying that she can never know what’s real and what’s not real. She and Peeta could have a long, tear-filled conversation.

Actually, I can take that Hunger Games comparison a bit further, which is hilarious because this book isn’t remotely like The Hunger Games. That said, Katniss does have some stuff in common with Miles, Alex’s love interest. Both of them struggle with understanding their emotions and would do anything to protect the people they love.

More than The Hunger Games (easily because again, they’re not similar), Made You Up is like Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, but dark and not slapstick. Miles has that unpredictability, that lack of caring about consequences, and that level of genius. Alex initially thinks he’s a jerk, but she slowly falls in with him and then for him. The romance is shippy in such an odd, atypical way, much like the people in it. The actual plot actually does run a bit to the over-the-top, but there will always be that part of you that wonders if that’s because it’s seen through Alex’s lens. View Spoiler »

There have been so many mental illness romances about two broken people falling in love and curing one another or, alternately, healing one of them and leaving the other dead. Made You Up is very decidedly not either of those sorts of books. Both Alex and Miles are broken, and, while having each other helps, it doesn’t fix anything. View Spoiler » I love the way they initially misunderstand each other and conflict but ultimately strengthen one another. I absolutely love romances between broken people who don’t fix each other but help each other.

Francesca Zappia’s debut novel is moving and beautiful. I had a whole mess of feels, and I want to give everyone in this book a massive hug. I cannot wait for Eliza and Her Monsters.

Favorite Quote:

“People say teenagers think they’re immortal, and I agree with that. But I think there’s a difference between thinking you’re immortal and knowing you can survive. Thinking you’re immortal leads to arrogance, thinking you deserve the best. Surviving means having the worst thrown at you and being able to continue on despite that. It means striving for what you want most, even when it seems our of your reach, even when everything is working against you.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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2 responses to “Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia”

  1. This one does sound/look sad and I think that’s mainly the reason I stayed away from it too. But that cover is gorgeous. Sounds like I need to give this one a go.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Scribe of Siena by Melodie WinawerMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Definitely do! It’s sad but not in the unrelentingly depressing way, which I personally cannot handle. And the ship is goldddddddd.

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