Made You Up by Francesca Zappia // when readers can’t read minds

 I can’t tell you how conflicted I am about this book. SO CONFLICTED.

I thought it would be amazing. It has a gorgeous cover, it’s gotten great reviews, it’s an interesting topic. I even got a copy for Christmas–something that doesn’t usually happen for me! And I did love parts of it. But I really didn’t love every part.

And look! I took pictures! (though I wish I had my sister’s Magic 8 Ball and chess set)

Goodreads description

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. 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 classes begin, and 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.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.


Things I liked

– The characters. Alex is our narrator, and I found her to be likable. I was on her side. I felt what she felt…when she was betrayed, I felt betrayed (which seemed to happen quite often). And I never felt that her schizophrenia defined her character, which is good. Miles was…well, I loved him and I hated him, which I think was fine. Some of the secondary characters seemed a bit faceless, but not bad.

– The romance. Alex and Miles definitely have a tumultuous time. There is no insta-love and no love triangle, though. I really enjoyed seeing their relationship develop throughout the book. It was kind of an emotional roller coaster. My one complaint was that

they almost had sex literally the day they got together. They ended up not going through with it, but I was one angry lobster for a few pages there.

– The twists. They were a little predictable, but not too predicable. I think they added a lot to the story, but sometimes I felt that they were just kind of thrown in at weird spots. There was buildup, but they still felt out of place.


Things I had problems with

– The subplots. There are a few subplots going on. Miles’ family. The school snake. The scoreboard. Celia. Ria’s sex life. I think they jumbled the story and made everything seem really choppy. Honestly, they made a big deal out of the scoreboard subplot but I could not have cared less about it. I wanted more fleshing out of Alex’s schizophrenia and her relationship with Miles.

– The description (or lack thereof). This was my major issue. The book was really confusing! There were so many parts where I didn’t know what was happening because there wasn’t enough description. And I know our narrator has schizophrenia so it would make sense to show the reader how confusing her reality can be, but it wasn’t like that. I don’t think it was done intentionally. Information was just withheld, or things were said in weird ways. At one point, Alex says, “He was lying in a pool of his own blood,” and it took me a few paragraphs to realize that he wasn’t actually lying in a pool of his own blood. She was just thinking aloud (not hallucinating, either–just imagining). But as our narrator, things like that made the story really hard to follow. It felt like the readers were just supposed to be able to read Alex’s mind and know where everything was in a room and how things were taking place. But readers can’t read minds! (someone needs to get on that, though.)

– The errors. I get that this book just came out last year, so there are bound to be some grammatical errors here and there. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is when those errors blatantly interfere with the coherence of the story.

So towards the end of the book, Alex goes unconscious, wakes up in the hospital, and people are explaining what happened to her. (Basically a case of sorry-but-you-don’t-get-to-see-the-actual-climax, but I can get over that.) And they finally reveal what was up with the principal all this time–he was obsessed with Celia, not Miles. But then they say he tried to strangle Miles. That didn’t make sense to me, so I thought it was meant to say Celia. On the next page, it says “tried to strangle her,” which confirmed my suspicion. But then on the page after that, it goes back to saying that he tried to strangle Miles. And by that point, I was so confused that I didn’t know what had happened or why, even though it was one of the major plot points in the story.


After I got through the first 100 pages, I really thought the book was picking up. In the middle, I was thinking it was at least a 4-star read. But by the end, I was frustrated. I felt kind of betrayed as a reader, because this book could easily be amazing, but there were little things that really detract from it. It felt unfinished, mostly. It felt like the draft before the final draft.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Let’s talk about this. Have you guys read Made You Up? Have you ever read a book where you felt you had to read the narrator’s mind? Or have you ever read a book that felt unfinished? Ooh, and what other books about schizophrenia have you read? This was my first!

currently listening to: Goner by Twenty One Pilots

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