We all have times when we’re unsure of ourselves, when our mind plays tricks and confuses things. Alex, the protagonist of Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up, understands those neurosis better than most. Every day she fights a battle to sort out reality from delusion. Armed only with her determination, a Magic 8-Ball, and a digital camera, Alex wages war against her schizophrenia and struggles to live a normal teenage life around it. She’s starting senior year with a clean slate at a new school, making friends, going to parties, and even falling in love. But is any of it real or is it just another figment of Alex’s imagination?
Mental health is something that touches all of our lives at one time or another. We all have moments when our thoughts aren’t cooperative, when we’re overwhelmed by our emotions. Though full on schizophrenia is a bit more than the usual teenage struggle, I loved that the author didn’t shy away from putting mental health into a classic coming of age story. Too often these maladies are hidden away in shame, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Bringing a concept like this into the story not only elevated it, it also gave a mouthpiece to an issue that’s long been hidden in the closet.
The narrator was funny, too. She might have been ill, but she tried desperately hard not to let that stop her from living her life. Alex joked around with friends and worked as a waitress after school even while she scanned the perimeter for danger and checked her foods for poison. This surprised me about her character, but that kind of strength also made me proud. She never gave up, even when she was confused, and I really admire that.
Overall I would have to say that I really enjoyed this book. There were some parts that were rather clean cut, edging on cliché, but many others also took me by surprise. This story was powerful in the way that it presented Alex’s mental illness, unique in the way it described the neurosis of her character in a framework of ordinary. I’d never read anything quite like it before and I look forward to checking in with this author again in the future.