THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. UNRELIABLE, UNTRUSTWORTHY SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Book: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
“Believing something existed and then finding out it didn’t was like reaching the top of the stairs and thinking there was one more step.”
Made You Up is… quite the book. It starts with an innocent memory of our leading lady Alex as she frees lobsters from their tank in the middle of a Meijer with the help of a strange boy she just met. It’s sweet and innocent and deceptively torn to shreds in the next few pages.
Because lobsters aren’t red– and Alex didn’t free them. And Blue Eyes? He never existed.
Reading about schizophrenia when your narrator is the schizophrenic is quite a different experience. You know they are unreliable; Alex sees phoenixes on signs and imagines men standing on the roof of schools with guns, she’s terrified of Nazi’s and constantly performing perimeter checks and ensuring her food isn’t laced with tracers or poison. She knows she’s crazy and that she can’t help it.
And as you read, your assumption that you can tell the delusions from reality where the narrator can not– it becomes your worst enemy.
How the hell was that Magic 8 Ball imaginary but the python was real?!
And don’t get me started on Charlie. I’m not quite ready yet to process that one yet. That whole twist broke my brain almost as bad as Alex’s is. Almost.
I’ve seen people complain that this book is a very false depiction of schizophrenia and that it romanticizes the mental illness, but I’ll have to disagree. My brother-in-law is schizophrenic and I saw a lot of him and his symptoms reflected in Alex. Schizophrenia is a living disease that can be managed and treated but which ultimately limits the person only as much as the people around that person limit them. They may not always see the world the same as you and I, but they aren’t necessarily wrong in how they interpret the stimuli around them.
Alex wasn’t wrong about McCoy, despite those who doubted her. She was more right than anyone else could have been, finding the lines of the strangeness between the ghosts of the past and the ghosts that could have been but never were.
She was also right about Blue Eyes. He was real, and his name is Miles Ritcher, and she did attempt to free those lobsters all those years ago. It wasn’t a fake memory at all.
I read this book and fell into every single trap Alex did. I believed what she did, because I believed the narration to be cut and dry and obvious; what Alex told us wasn’t real wasn’t and what she said was real was. But that’s the problem with her illness– sometimes the unreal is real, and the real things are made up. Even though Alex thinks she can tell the difference her mind is tricking her.
Pond scum stinking blood Miles? Fake, Alex says.
Only Miles was almost killed as a child by being tossed in a lake
Musical prodigy little sister? Real, says Alex.
At least one point, before she died at the age of 5 due to choking
Magic 8 Ball on the Finnegans counter? Real and reliable, says Alex.
Except there never was a magic 8 ball and Alex was feeding her own paranoia
Python slithering through the science halls? Hallucination, Alex says.
Until it crawls down her arm in class and everyone else can see it too
Definitely a 5 star read. I’m so glad this was a Kindle Daily Deal and that I managed to scoop it up.