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 story opens with Alex, as a seven year old at a supermarket and she meets a boy whom she calls ‘Blue Eyes.’ They find a tank full of lobsters. At the time, Alex believes the lobsters are asking her to set them free and so she does so with the help of Blue Eyes. However Alex then realises the boy she met was not real after all.
“People say teenagers think they’re immortal, and I agree with that. But I think there’s a difference between thinking you’re immortal and knowing you can survive. Thinking you’re immortal leads to arrogance, thinking you deserve the best. Surviving means having the worst thrown at you and being able to continue on despite that. It means striving for what you want most, even when it seems our of your reach, even when everything is working against you.”
Alex is a quirky character, but she is insecure, like most teenagers. Sometimes she is insecure about her lobster red hair, which she mentions a few times. She worries about people finding out about her condition. She has a lot of hope in herself despite of her mental illness, which I admire. She’s more optimistic, than depressed. She wants to live a normal life, be a normal teenager and make it to college. Her illness does get in the way. It is not something she is able to control, but she is mature about it and learns to deal with it in the best way she can.
Alex meets Miles whilst working at Finnegan’s restaurant and she instantly wonders,‘could this be Blue Eyes? Was he real after all?’ Miles is arrogant, mean and a jerk. Everyone at school appears to be afraid of him somewhat. He’s actually really smart and scores the top grades. He does a lot jobs for money, which sounded a bit dodgy. I knew there must have been a reason to as why he is a jerk, so it was interesting to learn more about his backstory.
Since this is written in the first person point of view, we see everything through Alex’s eyes, which makes her an unreliable narrator. Her world is made up of colours and objects. We can’t differentiate what’s real or what’s a hallucination, so that’s a mystery part of the book. Alex doesn’t trust her insights because it could be a delusion, so she takes pictures to ensure that she isn’t making it up. There are plot twists that made me think ‘that wasn’t real?!’ so that was a bit of a shocker. The signs were actually there but I didn’t see it.
“Dear Asshole: Thank you for keeping your word and believing me. It was more than I expected. Also, I’m sorry you were inconvenienced by my gluing your locker shut at the beginning of this year. However, I am not sorry that I did it, because it was a lot of fun. Love, Alex.”
“No, you’re not a bad person,” he said. “And Richter isn’t a bad person, and I’m not a bad person. We’re just people, and people sometimes do stupid things.”
The romance aspect of this book wasn’t the main focus and no instalove. Yay for carefully developed romances! It started off with them loathing each other, slowly forming a friendship before gradually becoming something more. However by the time I got to this point in the story, I did not care about the romance between Alex and Miles.
The first time I heard of schizophrenia was when I watched a British Soap called Hollyoaks (if you’re from the UK, you’ll be familiar with this soap). I think this was in either 2007/08 when there was a storyline about a young teenaged boy who had schizophrenia. It was so interesting and dark, but it was portrayed so well. It provided me an eye opener about this illness.
It’s good to see mental illness making its way in YA novels.
My issue was that there were parts of the book that felt like it dragged on. There was a subplot with the Principal McCoy being obsessed with the scoreboard, always talking to Celia’s mum and not liking Miles. I think Zappia created that subplot to create mystery but I wasn’t very interested in it.
My other issue is that I am not entirely sure how well explored and research it was. I decided to read up on the Wikipedia page and the first thing it informs me is that schizophrenia is described as having both positive and negative symptoms. Alex only showed positive symptoms and not negative. Other conditions include major depression and anxiety. I didn’t get the sense that Alex was depressed. Like I mentioned, she was trying very hard to be a positive person, so maybe she was trying to hide her depression from the reader? I don’t know. Because of this, I feel a bit dubious on how well this presents people to do have schizophrenia. I think I was expecting this book to be solely focused on the psychology aspect.
Unpopular opinion – I am sad to say I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. I really wanted to like this because so many people have loved it! I am disappointed. The cover is so unique. I love how arty it is with the girl holding the umbrella and this gorgeous blue colour splashing down. I’m seeing this book rated 4 or 5 stars. I thought it was an alright book. I don’t think it lives up to the hype, but on the positive side of things, there were some really great quotes.
If you are looking to read a realistic fiction about mental illness, then maybe Made You Up isn’t the right one to read about (but that’s just my opinion.)
Have you read it? Did you like it? Let me know your thoughts.