Saturday, June 24, 2017

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Oh, my! I just finished reading Made You Up by Francesca Zappia and I had to rush over here to tell you about it. I heard about this book a while ago and snatched it up when I saw it at the library. Made You Up is about Alex, a teenage paranoid schizophrenic attempting her final year of high school at a new school. Alex doesn't always know what is real, but she does her best. She meets knew people and even makes a few friends (and a few enemies) all while trying to keep her mental illness a secret. When she suspects one of the boys in several of her classes is the same boy she met when she was seven and her symptoms first began, she worries that her condition is worsening.

This was a heck of a book. Alex is the ideal unreliable narrator. The reader knows she is unreliable, Alex freely admits it, but we also know it isn't her fault. If Alex can't be sure what is real, how can the reader hope to do so? The whole way through the book I kept wondering how much was real and how long it would be before I would learn what was delusion and what wasn't. Alex thinks she sees men in black suits and red ties standing guard along the school's rooftop. She also keeps seeing a python poking its head out of the ceiling in the hallways. She knows she can't always tell what is reality and what isn't so she takes pictures to help, but maybe it isn't always working.

There were some things that were never clear to the reader, but I suppose that makes sense coming from a narrator who isn't sure either. The storyline in this book is interesting, but I also appreciated the look into the life of a young woman with a severe mental illness. Until we treat mental illnesses with the same respect and understanding with which we treat physical illnesses, people will continue to be unable to get the help they need. A YA book about mental illness could be such a service to a teenager who needs it.

Both funny and heart-rending, this book is quite a journey. At one point my shirt was soaked with tears. And when Alex utters this line, I felt her hopelessness:

No medicine would ever be strong enough for this.

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