I ❤ reality-benders. As soon as I heard about MADE YOU UP, I couldn’t wait to read it! As far as offbeat and bittersweet go–check and check. If you’re stuck in the overflowing washing machine of YA tropes and are looking for something a little (or in this case, a lotta) different, pick this baby up.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin with the Amazon.com summary:
Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. For fans of Silver Linings Playbook and Liar, this thought-provoking debut tells the story of Alex, a high school senior—and the ultimate unreliable narrator—unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion.
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. 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 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. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her?
The first thing I want to talk about is something that I can’t discuss since it would mean spoilers, and IT’S KILLING ME! I’d love to enter a goodreads discussion with other readers of this book just to talk about what is real and what is not. Zappia does a beautiful job painting the world as Alex sees it, blending reality and delusion until it’s impossible to tell the difference. As a reader, I felt I knew better than Alex as she takes pictures to try and straighten out what is real and what’s made up, but that false sense of security in judgement is turned on its head at the end of the second act. Ultimately, the reader is left in an existential fix as Alex questions her entire reality…but that’s where the love story comes in.
Miles is the valedictorian terror of the school. He’s just about the worst person Alex, or anyone else for that matter, could get mixed up with. He’s a paid prank artist and does horrible things to the possessions of people who’ve done nothing more than make his acquaintance (including Alex). Miles describes himself as being emotionally stunted and seems the last person to anchor Alex in reality. That is until he discovers (rather dramatically) that Alex is schizophrenic. This draws him to her, his complicated history unraveling as Alex digs deeper into what makes Miles…Miles. His home life so dark, his intellect so impossibly high, and his pranks so unthinkable, that it is both easier and harder to see him as a made up character. Of course, Miles is a made up character–Zappia’s character. The English major inside me at this up!
But even if you aren’t compelled to gleefully over-analyze every piece of media you encounter that contains a narrative, plumbing its depths for hidden meanings, you will find reasons to enjoy this book. The characters act, talk, and think like authentic high schoolers. Zappia has a humorous, quirky writing style that zips along, and you can tell she had a lot of fun writing it.
Michelle Joyce Bond