Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

I saw this title advertised on Goodreads, and it caught my eye mostly because of the cover art. When I read the summary it sounded intriguing, but it wasn’t until I looked through the reader reviews that I decided to give it a try. Made You Up uses a writing mechanism I had never read before – something known as the unreliable narrator. So I suppose you could say I read this book as much for the technique as for the story. Here is the summary, as presented on Amazon.

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?

It ended up being a fairly typical high school setting, with the misfits pitted against the popular kids, jocks and cheerleaders – the same as seventy-five percent of all YA literature. But while the setting was typical, the main character and her story were not.

The unreliable narrator is a writing mechanism, where the reader is never entirely sure what is real and what is not. Alex’s paranoid schizophrenia was the perfect catalyst for this, as she’s never entirely sure whether what she’s seeing is real or a hallucination, whether her paranoia is based in facts and real danger or in her mental disorder.

I picked it up for the writing mechanism and stayed for the story. As Alex tries to go through her senior year as normally as possible, everything colludes against her. From a python in the ceiling tiles, to a principal that worships the school’s scoreboard, to an English teacher more like a drill sergeant, she’s left wondering whether she’s constantly hallucinating or is reality really that unreal? It might sound obnoxious, to never be completely sure of what you’re reading, but it was actually handled really well, and ended up being more like a mystery than a trip into Wonderland. A mystery I never completely solved until the end – always a bonus. I hate figuring everything out way ahead of time.

She bonds with a group of students that volunteer to run the gym for all the school’s sporting events, and for the first time she has real friends. Friends that she works with to solve the mystery of the bizarre happenings at their school. And one of them may be more than a friend.

Miles was the typical YA love-interest that I’ve read over. And over. And over. Dark, brooding, and mysterious. Is there no other style of love-interest? It’s getting just a hair cliché. And I’m getting more than a hair annoyed. But he wasn’t as bad as some I’ve read. The little mafia-style ‘jobs’ that students pay him to do were a fun angle, as was his interest in words, history, and learning.

There wasn’t much language, but there was your required make-out scene that every YA novel seems to have. The twists and turns and little mysteries of the plot kept it interesting and enjoyable, but really it was just a fun one-time read. Overall, after finishing it, it was rather forgettable. I didn’t even remember the heroine’s name when I sat down to write this. For YA enthusiasts, this would be one to add to the to-read list, simply for how interesting the plot is while you’re reading it. But if YA lit isn’t really your thing, I wouldn’t bother.

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