I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been in a serious reading slump for the past year or so. I’m not counting Audio-books here, because though I absolutely hate when people refer to listen to a book as “cheating,” there is definitely a difference for me between being forced to complete a book because I’m held captive in the car, and being able to sit down and focus on the pages of a book and not whether I should be doing the dishes or what’s going to happen next on my latest Netflix binge-of-choice (most recently, Jane the Virgin if you’re wondering which I wasn’t ready to let go of when the episodes ended).
But every once in a while, a book comes along and changes the way you go about your day. You don’t mind sitting in the same spot for four hours as the world gets darker around you, and maybe you didn’t shut the garage door when you came home earlier, but you’ll deal with it later (guilty). Made You Up by Francesca Zappia was that book for me.
I found the book on a list somewhere in the depth of the internet while preparing for Tropical Storm Hermine and the eventual power outage that would hit my town (which didn’t happen, despite having lost power during the sunniest day of the year this summer, but I digress). Yes, while everyone else was out making sure they would have food to eat, I needed to make sure I had a book on my Kindle (which was being dusted off and charged up that same prep-day, because reading slump, remember?).
The story opens with a flashback to young Alex’s first schizophrenic episode when she was just seven years old; unusual for a schizophrenic to develop hallucinations and other symptoms so early, but not unheard of. It picks up 10 years later when she’s entering her senior year of high school. She’s starting a new school, has a job, and desperately wants to go to college to prove to herself and the world around her that she can occupy a normal life.
What follows isn’t always normal, and side of me that never wants to feel slighted or gullible what ready at every page turn to say “a-ha I knew that was a hallucination!” (Hint: it didn’t happen very often). Despite my best efforts, characters wormed their way into my heart and sat there heavily, forcing me to take moments every few chapters to look up from the pages, breathe, and remind myself that it wasn’t reality and I didn’t have to hold my breath so long, and no, those emotions I’m feeling aren’t real; they are book-induced, so calm down already. I was along for the crazy ride of life with schizophrenia that this book so beautifully portrayed in all of its glory and heartbreak. Alex fought the good fight to hide her most identifying identity and seek out safe places while keeping wary of them all the same– and I was there with her.
This is the kind of book that would be even more powerful upon a second read through, if only I were the type of person who could re-read a book (I think half the fun of reading is guessing what’s around the corner and how the story will end, and once I know the ending there just isn’t as much fun). This is also the kind of book that I will proselytize to every person I meet. It ranks among the most captivating books I’ve read; up there with Tuesdays with Morrie, The Fault in Our Stars, and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (which I brought to a party the same way I did with this title, and I have no shame about it).
Zappia, F. (2015). Made you up. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.