Made You Up, Francesca Zappia.
Published: HarperCollins, 2015
Worth Your Time?
Thoughts on the Jacket Summary
So, the summary on the physical jacket of this book is not actually a summary–it’s an “excerpt,” and then there is a two-sentence description on the back cover. “Excerpt” is in quotes because the dialogue on the jacket, as it turns out, is not in the book. I looked for it, the whole time I was reading, because I actually love it. Seriously, it gave me chills.
I was slightly disappointed by its absence in the actual story, but if anything, it kept me reading faster because I wanted to get to that scene. So I hate it for being manipulative, but also it’s great.
“‘Let me out,’ said the lobster.”
“Everyone’s interesting if you stare at them long enough.”
“In a weird way, it felt like he belonged here. He belonged in the land of phoenixes and witches, the place where things were too fantastic to be real.”
*also literally every other quote in the book, but it’s casual*
I’ll be honest. It’s hard to create a female protagonist that I don’t automatically hate. Especially in first person. I don’t like listening to emotional girls whine about their problems all the time. As an emotional girl who whines about her problems sometimes, I just can’t handle it. They remind me too much of the journal I kept in ninth grade, and admitting to myself that I ever thought like that kind of makes me want to barf. There are some thoughts that just shouldn’t be shared with the rest of the world. Seriously. No one else cares.
BUT I LOVE ALEX. From the very first page, I loved her. She’s unapologetically quirky, and not in a look-how-quirky-my-protagonist-is sort of way. [You know the type I’m talking about–clumsy, wears glasses until she has a makeover, people at school don’t notice her because she’s smart; Alex is not those things. She drinks Yoo-hoos and talks to lobsters and isn’t annoying.]
Miles is intriguing. He’s got some sort of “dark past” and does secret under-the-table jobs for people. Resident Bad Boy who also happens to be great at twenty questions. He’s a total nerd, but like, in a cool way. My only complaint about him is that some of his traits/background are a little cliche, but I also don’t really care because Zappia makes him fun to read.
MR. GUNTHRIE IS SO GREAT. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.
Some of the background characters (not all–some are great) are also the kind of stand-in archetypes of all teen dramas, and the bullying that goes on seems a little extreme at times. But that’s not to say that it couldn’t happen; it all serves the plot and, given the premise of the story, it doesn’t really have to be believable, anyway. Reality is relative. And since those characters are in the background, it’s okay for them to be less developed.
The premise, if you don’t already know, is that Alex is a paranoid schizophrenic trying to sort out what’s real and what’s not. The book is full of weird (and sometimes scary) hallucinations. And then there are things that look like hallucinations that turn out to be real. Some of the real events are kind of absurd, but they’re fun to read about and imagine.
Alex is an unreliable narrator. To an extent, you end the book with a sort of Life of Pi feel, where you don’t really know what actually happened or if it even matters.
Some of the plot points are typical of teen fiction, just told through a different filter, like the popular cheerleader bully and the crazy high school parties (that I was never invited to). The romance happens slowly, which I appreciated. There’s not an in-your-face annoying love triangle.
There’s definitely a few twists at the end. I saw one of them coming, and I imagine you could find a lot of clues on a second read-through, but there’s so much going on that it’s easy to miss. Don’t zone out while you’re reading, or you might get lost. The ending is intense.
The dialogue is short and realistic. It sounds like my friends talking, and I love it.
Alex’s voice is so calm and detached. She’s just casually talking about schizophrenia and phoenixes and talking lobsters like it’s completely normal and no big deal. It’s great.
Here’s where a few people have issues with this book. Alex is supposed to be a paranoid schizophrenic, but a lot of her symptoms don’t line up exactly with reality. For example, her disorder starts when she’s seven years old, and schizophrenia usually doesn’t manifest itself in females until they get into their twenties. She also has a lot of visual hallucinations, rather than the much more common auditory hallucinations. Basically, her diagnosis is a stretch–but it’s fiction, so that’s debatably forgivable.
Regardless, she’s a very relatable character. I really think anyone who gets caught up in their own fictional worlds could feel the things she’s feeling, even if they’re better at knowing what’s real and what isn’t.
There also a couple instances of abuse in this story that maybe don’t get enough attention. To some extent, they feel like attempts to make the characters darker and sadder, and that might be offensive to some people. Or it might just make you feel sad for those characters! Personally, I felt sad for them. It felt real enough.
Who Would I Recommend This To?
Maladaptive Daydreamers. Nerds and weirdos. Redheads. Myself.