Review #39: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

a forwardsandbookwords review

Cover Revieacb5f-madeyouup2bcoverw: I love it! It’s so beautiful (and honestly it was what made me first want to read this book).
Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Description: Stand-alone YA contemporary mystery.
Publishing Information: Released May 19, 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 428
First Line: If I was good at the grocery store, I got a Yoo-hoo.

Synopsis (taken from Goodreads): 

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.

pros and cons

The things I liked about it, I loved so much that they completely destroyed me. Unfortunately though, I had some issues with this book.
Going into it, I had only read the blurb on the inside of the hardcover jacket. Even if I had read the full synopsis though, it still seems to describe a different story than this one really was. The blurb, which is what intrigued me (along with the gorgeous cover) reads,

“Let’s play twenty questions.”
“Okay . But I ask the questions this time.”
“If I guess it before five, I’ll be really disappointed.”
The corner of his lips twisted up into a smile and he said, “Don’t insult me.”
“Are you alive?”
“Do you live here?”
“Do I know you?”
“Did I make you up?”

Unless I completely missed it (which is possible), this conversation wasn’t even in the book. If it was in the book, this moment wasn’t relevant enough to the story to really stand out, because the book isn’t really solely focused on our main character, who has schizophrenia. Instead, it was about a girl who is solving a mystery and dealing with jerks at school and fighting with her parents and falling in love and, oh, yeah!, she has schizophrenia.
Mental illness isn’t what defines a person, so maybe it was good that the only plot line of the book was the fact that the main character has schizophrenia, but there was just so much going on. There was bullying and history and Nazi Germany and a snake in the ceiling and a haunted scoreboard and family drama and sabotage and partying and abusive adults. It almost felt like Francesca Zappia had all of these really great, individual ideas and tried to fit them all into one book. They started overshadowing each other and I wasn’t sure what was relevant and what was even going to end up being real, which can be really exciting but it also had me extremely confused.
Within all of these plot lines, there were some really, really terrible people. It almost wasn’t enjoyable to read about. Obviously sometimes books don’t need to be super enjoyable, and instead they’re meant to send a message or make us think, but it just felt like there was so many crazy, unnecessary sad and scary things in these little side plots. It made me… well, sad and scared.

“I am real. This”–he put his other hand over the first-“is real. You see me interacting with other people all day long, don’t you? I talk to people; I affect things in the world. I cause things to happen. I am real.”
“But-but what if this whole place”-I had to suck in air again-“what if everything is inside my head? East Shoal and Scarlet and this bridge and you-what if you’re not real because nothing is real?”
“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said. “You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”

Now for the love interest… I don’t know. I’m not a fan of the whole “bad guy gone sweet” trope, even if we do usually get a backstory that occasionally almost excuses the jerkiness of these people. I grew to like Miles, but I think that’s only because he seemed like a completely different person in the last third of the book or so. His transformation didn’t seem very realistic because it wasn’t really a transformation. It was just like he was replaced with a new Miles that wasn’t a jerk.
Yes, we got a backstory eventually. Yes, I kind of shipped them eventually. Yes, he got nicer (like they all do) eventually.
I don’t know. It took him long enough.
Tucker, on the other hand, was fantastic. He’s one of my favorite best friends/sidekicks I’ve read in a contemporary. Great guy.
This book kind of lacked any good family support systems for any of the characters that we got to know; they all had pretty horrible home lives. It could be argued that Alex’s family was pretty good, but her mom drove me crazy. Refusing to acknowledge your daughter’s wishes and listening to what she has to say is not protecting her.
Last complaint. There was too much unnecessary swearing. This is really a personal preference, but I just didn’t enjoy it. But, you know, that’s just me.
There were things about this book that I really enjoyed. It was incredibly fast-paced, funny (I mean, not always. See above: scared and sad), very quotable, and sent some powerful messages.
One of the big twists really got me. I didn’t see it coming, and I was absolutely heartbroken and angry. I also absolutely loved the ending.
I loved the conversations Alex had with her Magic 8 Ball and the games of Twenty Questions that Miles was impossibly good at. I loved the crazy jobs that Miles did for people.
That’s enough quirkiness and side-features of the book for one contemporary, wouldn’t you think? Because normally, books with such great plot twists and endings and formats like that would be getting five stars. How could they not? Unfortunately, there was just too much going on. I couldn’t focus on the effects and the heartbreak from that plot twist when I was worried about how nine other side stories were going to work out.
I think this book had a ton of potential, and it didn’t completely disappoint me. It just wasn’t what I expected at all, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. However, I am glad that I read it. It was entertaining and books that make you feel so many things (sad, scared, annoyed) clearly are connecting with you in some way and therefore doing something right.

final thoughts

So, did you think all of that was incoherent? Just wait for me to try and sum up my overall feelings.
Giving this book a low rating would imply that it wasn’t amazing, right? But this book was amazing. There were so many freaky elements and it surprised me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
However, I feel like it could’ve been a lot better. Looking back on it, I remember my favorite elements and feel like it’s a five star book. The issue is, it’s a five star premise. The execution just didn’t work for me, and maybe it will for you. There are plenty of reviews out there that completely praise this book, and I’d like to think that this review is one of them as well, because I did enjoy it. I’m glad I read it. I might even read it again one day.
I keep contradicting myself.
I don’t know guys. I really liked some parts, but I really didn’t like some other parts. There were so many different parts to have feelings about.
This book is somewhere between a 2.75/5 and a 3.75/5. You would think that would make it a 3.25, but that doesn’t feel right either.
I’m a mess.
Goodreads         Barnes and Noble         Amazon          IndieBound

Thanks for reading! 🙂



9 thoughts on “Review #39: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

  1. I have not read this book but I feel like you should definitely read Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. I need to write a review but essentially it is about Caden Bosch a 15 yr old boy with schizophrenia the book is all about his schizophrenia and is solely focused on it. Read the synopsis and it will make more sense. There is some swearing but not a lot and not the f bomb. It is also confusing but I feel as though this is a great interpretation of schizophrenia because the author’s son has schizophrenia and if you need more convincing it won the national book award recently.


  2. I really enjoyed it, but I can definitely see your point of view on it as well. I liked that it tackled a tough subject, successfully or not, and opened the conversation. Great review! I didn’t find it incoherent at all, I liked how you discussed all angles! 🙂


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