Sydney’s Letter Essay #3: Made You Up
November 20, 2016
Recently, I finished Francesca Zappia’s debut novel, Made You Up. The author, Zappia, currently residing in Indiana, majors in computer science at the University of Indianapolis.
I decided to read this 448-paged realistic fiction novel because of a friend’s recommendation. I was informed that this novel falls along the lines of many of the titles I had most recently read, including Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley and The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. Not only did I enjoy the titles she juxtaposed this novel to but I also enjoyed many of the other titles she had previously recommended to me. In the end, I really enjoyed this novel.
The novel follows Alexandra Ridgemont, the quintessential unreliable narrator, who wants nothing more than to keep her schizophrenia at bay long enough to graduate high school. However, on her first day, she meets Miles Richter, who may be a figment of her imagination. Suddenly she finds herself with a new group of friends, she is falling in love with Miles, and she has even made a nemesis of the most popular girl in school. Even though, that for the first time in her life she feels normal, it becomes increasingly more difficult to tell the difference between reality and her delusions. And with her overprotective mother threatening to admit Alex into a psychiatric hospital, Alex must quickly find a way to suppress her worsening symptoms.
The narrative voice in this novel, Alexandra Ridgemont, is the epitome of unreliable. Due to her schizophrenia, the reader never truly knows if what Alex describes actually happened or not. This makes the novel very interesting and unpredictable, yet at times it can be confusing. However, the fact that we cannot trust the narrator only ignites a feeling of empathy within the reader for those with schizophrenia, because the reader learns what is feels like to not be able to trust any of your senses.
This book reminds me slightly of John Green’s Paper Towns. In Paper Towns, one of the main protagonists, Margo, commits a series of revenge plots against the classmates who have wronged her, along with the help of Quentin, the other main protagonist. In Made You Up, as a way of making money, Miles is paid by his classmates to satisfy their own personal vendettas, most often in the form of cruel pranks, one of which he completed with Alexandra’s help.
I’d say that the theme of this novel is that everyone takes reality for granted. Alexandra never knows if her senses are deceiving her or not, while everyone else can trust that they aren’t imagining things. I think that this is the theme because not only does the main character proclaim this on numerous occasions but, the entire novel is built around the fact that Alexandra cannot tell the difference between real and imaginary.
Finally, I was enraptured by a specific passage in which Alexandra, during her residency in a psychiatric hospital, was finally accepting her illness. The passage reads “I didn’t have the luxury of taking reality for granted. And I wouldn’t say I hated people who did because that’s just about everyone. I didn’t hate them. They didn’t live in my world. But that never stopped me from wishing I lived in theirs” (page 457). What I like about this passage is that it highlights the author’s craft: short, simple sentences. I also like that it shows how Alexandra has the tendency to think in a fashion that clearly presents her sentiment; as this passage implies that she is, in fact, jealous of everyone who doesn’t share her problem, and how she truly does wish to be normal.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I would rate it an eight out of ten. I really look forward to reading this author’s future works.