Mental illness is such a mystery; I was unsure what to expect when I picked up Made You Up. It is incredible.
17 year old Alexandra has paranoid schizophrenia. Reality is often not what she perceives it to be, but sometimes, it isn’t paranoia if there really is someone out to get her.
This is the story of a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and fantasy. It is the story of the trouble with reality.
Alex fights a daily battle against her schizophrenia, trying to determine what is real, and what is a product of her paranoia. She faces each day with boldness and bravery, along with a camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her sister Charlie, resolving to stay sane long enough to get into college. Unable to trust her own perception, she photographs her world, checking and rechecking the image, to see if the hallucinations have faded, and reality left behind.
Day one of her senior year, and her first problem arises. How does she know if Miles is real or a product of her delusions? She goes with it, and finds herself, for the first time, having normal teenage experiences, falling in love, making friends. But that is a problem in itself. Alex is used to being crazy. She doesn’t know how to handle normal.
This stunning novel features an unreliable narrator, and you will find yourself turning pages, re-reading sections, and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up. You and Alex both. Her voice is fabulous, and will stay with you long after you finish her story. It was a thought provoking experience for me; I did not expect to walk away from the book so deeply humbled by her bravery and her battles.
Author Francesca Zappia treats the subject with respect and dignity. Alexandra is not “crazy,” and her behaviour does not seem unlikely. You can see the teen who desperately wants to know what it would be like to trust her brain, but, at the same time, accepts that life will never be that easy.
Her relationship with the troubled and anti-social Miles unfolds naturally and gradually. I was rooting for them, wanting desperately for him to be real, and for their joy in each other to last.
The way Miles and the club handle finding out about Alex’s schizophrenia is just beautiful and EXACTLY how friends should react. Love, acceptance and let’s move on, you are still you.
Her relationships with her parents, the contentious one with her ever-present mother and the love and acceptance of her often absent father were elegantly written. I could feel her mother’s desperation, even as her inability to give Alex room to breathe frustrated me.
There is heartbreak, but there is hope to counteract the unavoidable pain.
Appropriate for teens. Subject matter is difficult, but important.
Made You Up is published by Greenwillow Books.