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Made You Up

Made You Up

4.4 17
by Francesca Zappia

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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.


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?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nothing is what it seems in Zappia’s debut novel. Diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic at age 14, Alexandra Ridgemont, a senior entering a new high school after an infamous graffiti episode, meets Miles, a boy she believes she conjured in childhood. Her uncertainty and the pressures of a new school create an unraveling of the barriers between imagination and reality. Told from Alex’s perspective, Zappia’s story submerges readers into a world where they, too, are left unsure of what to trust. As the stakes get higher for Alex—with obstacles that include a principal who fanatically worships a scoreboard, a fellow student buckling under family pressure, and her mother’s threats of hospitalizing her—the truth continues to blur. Despite support from Miles, who comes to her aid even as he struggles with an abusive father and alexithymia, Alex must push past increasingly frightening hallucinations to uncover a surprising secret. Though some of the novel’s big revelations are easily guessed and loose ends left dangling, Alex’s sardonic voice and the rapid, Heathers-like dialogue will hold readers’ interest. Ages 14–up. Agent: Louise Fury, Bent Agency. (May)
VOYA, June 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 2) - Sarah Flowers
In this debut novel, Alex is starting a new school at the beginning of senior year, following an unfortunate incident at her previous school. It is a particular challenge because Alex struggles with knowing what is real and what is not. She has paranoid schizophrenia, and she keeps things under control with medication and obsessive “perimeter checks,” and by taking pictures so she can compare them with her memory later on. Even so, this school is strange, with its principal who seems to be obsessed with the gym’s scoreboard, and the blue-eyed valedictorian, Miles, who falls asleep during most classes and does pranks for money the rest of the time. Alex thinks that Miles may be the boy who helped her free the lobsters in the supermarket tank when they were seven, a boy—and an incident—that she thought, until now, were figments of her illness. Alex and Miles are drawn together, both of them struggling with their own demons, but both of them needing something the other has to offer. There are multiple sub-plots and threads going on, and the fact that Alex is an unreliable narrator keeps the reader guessing for most of the book. Alex is a funny, touching, determined, and smart character, and her story is complex and interesting. Fans of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (Delacorte, 2014) and Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008) will immerse themselves in this nuanced look at trying to live a “normal” life while coping with mental illness. Reviewer: Sarah Flowers; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Alex is starting her senior year at a new high school, making a clean start after an incident at her previous school. She just wants to keep her grades up and perform her mandatory community service so she can get into college. But Alex knows she'll have a hard time achieving these goals, since she has paranoid schizophrenia. She keeps her illness to herself, hoping that between her doctor, her medication, and her own homegrown coping strategies, no one else need ever know. But on her first day at her new school, she meets a boy who looks exactly like someone she hallucinated on the day her illness first manifested 10 years earlier. And although Miles is not entirely friendly, he may be the only person who understands her. This is a wonderfully complicated book. Adolescence can be absurd, breathless, and frantic on its own. Combine it with mental illness, and things get out of control very quickly. Zappia sets a fast pace that she maintains throughout. Readers will be kept on their toes with quick-witted dialogue, pop culture references, and some odd but accurate word choices, as well as plot twists and big reveals (which may inspire some to reread and see where hints were dropped). While Alex may be unreliable, she is sympathetic from the start. Miles, however, is somehow more complicated than Alex and will almost certainly make readers question their responses to him. VERDICT Zappia tackles some big issues in her debut, creating a messy, hopeful, even joyful book.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
Kirkus Reviews
After her expulsion from private school for an act of mental-illness-induced vandalism, Alex, 17, begins her senior year at an Indiana public school with trepidation. Bright and determined to get to college, Alex counts on meds to control her paranoid schizophrenia even if they can't entirely eliminate the hallucinations that have plagued her for a decade; she relies on her part-time table-waiting job to help keep her occupied. Long before they know her history, bullies at her new school target Alex, but she's got allies, too—notably Tucker, a classmate and co-worker, as well as the small community of students at school who, like her, must compensate for past misdeeds by doing community service. They sell tickets and snacks, set up seating and provide support for school sporting events. Alex and the group's charismatic but troubled, possibly autistic leader, Miles, share a mutual attraction that might date back to their strange encounter in a supermarket years earlier, when Alex decided to set a tankful of lobsters free. This debut's talented author creates interesting characters and a suspenseful plot to draw readers in, but eventually the narrative loses traction and, ultimately, its raison d'être in a nihilistic denouement likely to leave readers feeling manipulated if not just plain cheated. Also troubling is the reliance on toxic stereotypes of mental illness to generate suspense. An intriguing but ultimately misbegotten project. (Fiction. 14-18)
“Debut novelist Zappia presents readers with a wholly unreliable narrator, [but] the characters all seem authentic, thanks to Zappia’s careful attention to detail.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The storytelling texture here recalls Andrew Smith and Sean Beaudoin…There are moments of genuine tragedy redeemed by the acceptance Miles and Alex find in each other amidst all of their imperfections; if love doesn’t conquer all, it certainly makes the battles easier to bear. Readers…will enjoy this quirky trip.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)
HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana and majors in computer science at the University of Indianapolis. She spends most of her time writing, drawing her characters, and reading. Made You Up is her debut novel.

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Made You Up 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
AdrianaC More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars An addictive and irresistible read with an unreliable narrator, because she cannot distinguish what is real and what isn´t. Alex was diagnosed with schizophrenia at thirteen years old and a year later was added paranoia to her diagnosis, so Alex is not sure if what she sees is real or not, so she carries a camera ans constantly takes pictures of all the things to help her discover if it's real. And she's about to enter her senior year at a new school, so she´ll be the new girl, which is a good thing for her because nobody knows about her. At her new school she meets Miles, a quirky guy whom may or may not be someone she knew as a child and leave an impression. But Miles is not an easy person to deal with, he´s little anti-social and extremely intelligent. But somehow they work together and have a very good chemistry between them (is not instant love). I really loved them together! Made You Up is a book that surprised me, because I didn´t expect to liked it so much, I LOVED IT !, why? because the whole time I was reading it, I was questioning everything, not knowing what was real and what was imagined by Alex and that was great. The plot is fresh and unique (at least for me). I recommend this book to those that like contemporary novels with a little of mystery.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Tris13 6 months ago
AReadingRedSox More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this one. It follows Alex, a paranoid schizophrenic, as she navigates high school, friendships, and a new relationship. But don't think that this book is anything but extraordinary: Alex is 100% unique, and so is her boyfriend, Miles. Both have quirks that make them unlikable to others, which is a refreshing twist. But both Alex and Miles have heartbreaking secrets that make their journey all the more intriguing. This isn't a sunshine and rainbows kind of book, and I absolutely loved that it wasn't. It did drag a bit in places, but the writing and the characters more then made up for it.
11674846 More than 1 year ago
I love this book. So well written and keeps you on your toes. I highly recommend
Katie_breathofbooks More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, since it was a fast-paced and emotional page turner. I really enjoyed getting to be in the head of Alex since it was interesting to read from the perspective of someone with schizophrenia. I also really enjoyed the hate to love romance between Alex and Miles. I really shipped it a lot and it was so adorable. This book had some heartbreaking twists, that I can't talk about because of spoilers, but there was one especially that I never saw coming.
breebree16 More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I was kind of skeptical about reading it but I am so glad I did. That big plot twist was unexpected but then I started noticing all the hints before. Anyways this book is great and I recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is perfect its a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just loved this book from start to finish.
CaitieS More than 1 year ago
I was brilliantly impressed by the fact that this woman began writing this book in high school, and continued in college. I thoroughly appreciated this throughout the book, and I am an avid reader. I love most books and I liked this one a lot. I tend to have very high expectations, although I did not realize this until I was thinking about what to write for this review. I read this without putting it down and I found that to be difficult in itself. I would be glad to congratulate this author for her accomplishment. However, this book really makes you (perhaps only me) realize the amount of thought,work, and dedication it takes to write a book, regardless of your age. This book was thoroughly interesting regardless and I would be honored to meet the author who "told you so" to her parents. Congratulations!
ImaginaryReads More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with Made You Up from the time lobsters were first mentioned. That first lobster scene is so cute, so precious, so full of feels. I never questioned if it was real or not. But then . . . . Made You Up is a novel that will make you question everything that you see. I would think that Alex perceives reality only to later question it only to later question my doubts. Made You Up is a mind boggling read. Alex's unreliable narration is both the charm and the major flaw of this novel. On the one hand, I love the complexity that Zappia creates by intertwining reality and delusions so that we, the readers, finds ourselves questioning everything that we're told. In the process, we come a little closer to understanding what it would be like to be unable to discern what's real and what isn't real. That said, I do want to acknowledge that Zappia wraps up the novel rather cleanly. By the end, we learn what's real and what existed only in Alex's mind down to the smallest details we wouldn't have thought to question. This means that Alex also learns the truth. While it's nice as a reader to get the closure, I doubt events will always wrap up so nicely in reality, and I encourage readers to keep this in mind while reading Made You Up. The major flaw of having an unreliable narrator is that we cannot ever completely trust the narrator. Yes, we shouldn't ever completely trust the narrator of any book we read because any narrator is going to have his or her biases, and some narrators may even have a reason to lie. (Ever study Jane Eyre or The Marquise of O in a college class?) In the case of Made You Up, however, you can't trust that everything you see actually happens. For example, Tucker so rarely appears after Miles is introduced that, even though I saw him interact with people other than Alex, I began to doubt that he really existed. I began to think that maybe Alex made up those interactions. You can see what a headache I was beginning to develop by the time Zappia began to clear things up for me. (Yes, Tucker really exists . . . rather, this other thing you thought was real isn't real at all . . .  and so forth.) Though I began to question my sanity, I actually enjoyed the "big reveals" at the end (except for that one tragic one . . . how could "that" not be real???? Whhhyyyyyyyy?????). Made You Up is like a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to click into place, you begin to recognize the discrepancies that have taken place, and everything begins to make more sense. I believe that Made You Up is a novel that will be fun to reread for clues that you didn't pick up at first read. Family is not entirely absent from the novel. Longtime readers of the blog know how much I value family. I believe that family is integral to our identities. Even if we're at a stage of our life where we don't particularly like certain members of our family, that's also a part of who we are. In Alex's case, her family influences her through how her parents react to her seeing things that exist only in her imagination and to her paranoia. While I don't particularly like how Alex treats her mom or how Miles talks to her mom in one scene, I can understand how she feels. Back in high school, there were many many times when I felt like my mom couldn't understand me, and those feelings led to resentment and feelings that I lacked control of my life. I appreciate how Alex comes to realize the love that her parents feel for her and decides to seek the treatment that her parents were considering. Her love for her sister is especially touching. While she does treat Charlie as The Annoying Younger Sibling at times, it's clear that she deeply cares for her young sister and treasures her existence. What I really love about Made You Up is that, while Alex may have schizophrenia, Made You Up is not a story about schizophrenia. It is the story about a girl (and a boy) dealing with the insanity of high school life, and our narrator just so happens to have schizophrenia, which makes it just a little more difficult to work through the insanity of high school. I recommend this for readers who enjoy reading a (somewhat) lighthearted coming-of-age story with some crazy high school adventures and a little dose of mystery. Literary Value: I believe that it is important to have different kinds of books out there that show different people living different kinds of lives. Alex's story gives us a place where we can get a glimpse of what it may be like to live with paranoid schizophrenia. I do emphasize the "may" given that Zappia was never diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or hay personal ties to schizophrenia. At the same time, she does try to portray the real deal. In an interview at Bettgeschichten, Zappia says, "I read books on it, I watched documentaries, and I went online to forums where people who have schizophrenia were discussing the illness." Most importantly, Made You Up shows how, while Alex may have schizophrenia, it doesn't take over her life. She is a normal high school girl who is just having a little more trouble than most working through the insanities of high school life.
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) “My first-ever friend was a hallucination: a sparkling entry on my new resume as a crazy person.” This was a quirky story about a girl suffering from schizophrenia, and her doubts over what was real, and what was a hallucination. Alex was a sweet girl, and I felt quite sorry for her and what she was going through; being diagnosed with schizophrenia at such a young age, being unable to know what was really happening and what she was hallucinating, and the bullying she went through from other kids was just a lot for her to deal with. I found Miles to be a bit of an odd character, but he seemed to be good for Alex, which was important as she needed someone to support her. “I didn’t hate them. They didn’t live in my world. But that never stopped me from wishing I lived in theirs.” The storyline in this was about Alex starting at a new school, meeting Miles, and getting up to some mischief, and we also got a few twists thrown in when we would discover that something was in fact a hallucination rather than really happening to poor Alex! We did get a bit of romance, but it didn’t really appeal to me all that much. “That is Miles Richter,” I said to Lil. “And he is not imaginary, thank you very much.” The ending to this was pretty good, but my favourite part of the story was definitely the twists we got thrown at the end! 7 out of 10
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Sigh. I had such high hopes for this book. Sadly, I was left disappointed. There's so many things that point to this being a winner for me. I love unreliable narrators. I like not being able to see twists and turns and being kept on my toes throughout a book. Mental illness fascinates me. Even if it's an illness I can't directly relate to (as is the case here), I'm always intrigued by books about mental illness. The human mind is a beautiful and crazy thing. The writing was really good. I definitely think it shows promise for Ms. Zappia. However, there was a lot that didn't work for me. The biggest thing feels like such a contradiction, so it might be hard for me to explain. Things felt so unfocused. Yes, I understand we're working with an unreliable narrator that has paranoid schizophrenia. I understand that not being sure of what's real is part of the story. Trust me, I understand these things. BUT I feel like, at some point, some clarity should come around. And because of the lack of clarity, the entire book feels sort of pointless and disappointing. It just left me saying, "That's it? That's the ending?" I really don't enjoy when a book leaves me feeling so dissatisfied. Overall, I just don't know how I really feel about this book. There was both good and bad in Made You Up. I do know, though, that I wanted to enjoy this book so much more than I actually did. You can read my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
   I wanted to read Made You Up because I deal with mental health issues myself, and I love books that handle it well, and give readers a view into a world view and problems that they might not otherwise experience or understand. I don't deal with schizophrenia personally, but I have other issues, and can relate in some ways, but also have a lot to learn myself.      Alex is an easy character to like. The way that she describes the world is so real, but that's the thing for her, sometimes she has a hard time distinguishing what is real and what is a delusion. I can't help but feel for her, especially as she is describing her experience with doctors and finding the right medicines. It can be such a challenge to find a doctor that you trust, and then finding the right meds, ones that don't have huge side effects, and actually help more than hurt is a journey and experience all on its own. I think that it stays pretty realistic to what could easily be a real life medical experience.      Having an unreliable narrator is always an experience but this one surprised me more than most. There were certain aspects that I never even imagined could be a delusion but it was and it threaded throughout the whole book. There was also a scene that I would've bet my bottom dollar was a delusion that turned out to be real life. So it was surprising and it made me feel even more deeply for her because her lines of reality and hallucination are always so blurred.      I enjoyed the relationships that she formed in this one. They were complex and unique. Miles is a trouble maker, and he pulls some pranks on her and she dishes it right back out, earning her a spot in his closed off friendship bubble. They really complemented each other, and he wasn't easy to shake, and he ended up being a rock for her. He had his own back story that was fascinating as well as reasons to be more accepting of Alex and understanding of her illness.      The other secondary characters were well done too. There were some absolute jerks, and some others who also liked Alex regardless of her problems. She had forced community service with a club that helped with the snack bar, and setting up and breaking down equipment for after school sports. They were an eclectic bunch and it was interesting seeing their reactions.      The whole side story with presumed cheerleading mean girl was an interesting touch as well as the whole fascination of the principal with the scoreboard. It fell on a girl and killed her, and since their principal has been obsessed with it. It adds another dimension to the story, but at times it seemed a bit forced, but still a decent enough mystery and yet another place where we aren't sure where the line of Alex's perceptions are spot on or if she is paranoid.     There was a romance in this one, and it was sweet enough. I like that it began as friendship, and that always stayed a priority instead of head over heels, nothing else matters like it can be with teens at times.     I did enjoy how they ended the story. Alex had to accept a lot about herself and her disease, but I was proud of her determination and her strength.  Bottom Line: Look at a teen dealing with schizophrenia, and her getting past that to make friends and even try her hand at romance.
itsraymarie More than 1 year ago
I loved this one so much. It was breathtaking, moving, and powerful. Books about mental illness are tricky because you have to pull them off well, portray it and the people with it correctly, and I think Zappia did a great job. This was an amazing debut and I will definitely be checking out her future books. Alex has schizophrenia. She has just transferred schools, thanks to an "incident" at her old one, and is just trying to hold it together long enough to get into college. Her biggest goal is just to keep others from finding out about her illness. That is, until she meets Miles. I loved Alex. She's strong, and spunky, and honestly just fun. She refuses to bow to this "problem", doing whatever she can to manage her day to day life. She relies on so many things to help her distinguish reality. Her unreliability as a narrator made it that much more interesting because sometimes she doesn't know what's real and what isn't which means we don't either. Miles is an interesting character. At the beginning, he isn't really the most likable character, and that's how he's supposed to be. But he's definitely interesting. Sure, he's kind of a jerk, but he also has his issues. Miles and Alex actually fit really well together, and I loved seeing them together. Both of them have things they're hiding from everyone, but slowly they learn to trust each other. I think some people might argue that her parents were terrible, but I'm not sure I saw them that way. Yeah, some of the things her mother did (or didn't do) were, frankly, awful. However, this book really shows how hard schizophrenia is on everyone involved. And I think this helps open eyes to how important it is to talk about things like this, so that people will know how to deal with it, how to help. This book also had me captivated the whole way through. There were definitely some twists in there that I didn't see coming. Not knowing reality from the non-reality made this that much more powerful. I think this is such a needed, powerful story and I loved every bit of it.
anythingnovel More than 1 year ago
Zappia does a great job of writing to make the reader really feel Alex’s confusion and frustration. I could not imagine having to second guess what I am seeing all the time, and it is easy to see why Alex is paranoid about many things. However, I did have some issues with the plot. For the first half of the book, things were really slow and it didn’t seem like much was happening. I wasn’t really fired up to pick this book up each time I went to read it. Once the plot did start to move, Alex becomes involved in something much bigger than she anticipated. This plot twist and mystery that Alex became involved in was a huge leap for me, and pretty unbelievable. It had to do with the school principal being kind of crazy and having an inappropriate relationship with a student. I know part of that was to make the reader doubt whether the events were actually happening of if it was all in Alex’s mind. But it was just really out there, and I find it hard to believe that no one was suspicious of the school principal in the years leading up to Alex’s attendance. For me this book was really enlightening and informative, but I wasn’t super entertained.