YA Romance Reviews

MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia — Insanely Good YA Romance

made you up
Image from goodreads.com

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.

Be sure to check out Francesca Zappia’s webpage and her DeviantArt page where she posts artwork that goes with her stories.  Happy reading!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Going Contest Crazy


Alright, maybe not “crazy,” but I’m doing the Charleston because I’m really excited about entering these contests.  Until this point, I’ve been focused solely on craft and doing my best to stand out in the slush pile.  Recently, a writer friend of mine pointed out that another great way to set your writing apart is to participate in contests.  She even found her first agent that way.  So here we go. 🙂

This week, I entered three contests advertised in the RWA’s trade publication.  They are:

  • The Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest
  • The Fire & Ice Contest
  • The California Hooker Contest

There’s a contest through the RWA’s young adult chapter that I’ll submit to in March–very excited!

Now, I need your help!  I want to enter more contests, but I’m being picky because I know there are a lot out there–some more reputable than others.  I’m wary of reading the fine print when entering my work in anything like this (are you guys?).  I’d love to find a contest for unpublished writers–particularly those writing YA, romance, or paranormal.  If you know of any good ones, please post below!

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

Read Like a Writer: THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth

Through to You HC_FinalIf you’re looking for a writer whose work typifies the phrase, “Leave space for the reader to inhabit,” Hainsworth is your girl.

It’s difficult for me to allow myself the luxury of reading for long, long stretches, but once I slipped into this book, it was difficult to escape.  The prose of this YA novel is so eloquently written, each detail so carefully selected as to–at times–be almost sparse, that I glided through it in just a few hours.  Everything from the protagonist’s voice to the description of the setting feels authentic, giving the reader just enough detail to enjoy, picture, and relate to what occurs in a given scene–allowing them plenty of latitude to fill in pieces for themselves.  It’s fitting that, in this novel which plays with the concept of moving through a portal to another reality, Hainsworth has left the perfect about of space for the reader to inhabit.  She draws us into her world by making room for us.

The story question, deceptively simple, raises all kinds of problems for Camden PIke: What if he were able to see his dead girlfriend, still alive in an alternate reality?  The setting, despite Camden’s ability to move between realities, is closed and simple, and the book’s cast of characters–limited.  By doing this, Hainsworth funnels the reader’s attention more toward the internal story–Cam’s struggle as he compares what he thought he knew about his girlfriend’s basic nature to her possessive, reckless behavior under the conditions of this alternate universe.  This is while Cam, at the same time, confronts another version of his own story where a positive attitude and different choices lead to greater success.  The blame for how his life turned out in his own reality rests squarely on his shoulders…with one small caveat.  Cam will learn that the people who enter his life–and those he makes an effort to keep close to him–ultimately help to make him a different person.

Hainsworth is one of those authors who makes it look easy but whose work, upon close examination, can be appreciated down tot he sentence level for exactly how much effort was put into it.  And this is only her first novel.  An immediate fan–I can’t wait to plunge into her next book.

Michelle Joyce Bond



YA Romance Reviews

Ode to L.J. Smith’s SOULMATE: Gateway Drug to My Lifelong Obsession with YA Paranormal Romance

soulmateLong, long ago, I dragged my mother into the nearest Barnes and Noble and proceeded to dance up and down the aisles of that new-to-me-year-round-book-fair in shameless glee.  It was in this manner that I stumbled upon the teen section–then a single row of shelves that stood between adult sci-fi/fantasy and the children’s section. Curious, I began pulling random YA books from the shelves, but nothing really grabbed me until I saw a line of thin, black books, resting on the bottom shelf.  I reached for one of the titles, and an electric shock traveled up my arm.  Despite its terrible cover art, I knew I’d found my Soulmate.

This was my first vampire-boyfriend book and though I’m no longer a fan of what’s become a cliché in paranormal fiction, I can still enjoy this book with its tight narrative; strong heroine and old soul, Hannah Snow; cool other-life flash backs; and mega antagonist, Maya the vamp-i-ya.  Without giving too much away, I found the ending rather satisfying as Hannah had to save herself.

I remember my mother wanted to “check” the book before I read it, but I took it to my room and ate it in three hours.  Emerging from my room, I proceeded to wander about the house, ghost-like–not sure exactly what just happened…but knowing I wanted more.

If, one day, somebody reads my book and gets that post-reading, fantasy high, I will have done my job.

Michelle Joyce Bond