Friday, 30 September 2016

Made You Up - Francesca Zappia

“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said. “You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”

I saw this book, I wanted to read this book, I left Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame at 53% so that I could read this book right about now. I'll go back to the former one day though - the author is from Peterhead so I feel like I should.

Anyway, Made You Up is about Alex, starting her senior year in high school, schizophrenic. She has an awfully difficult time telling apart her delusions and reality, and thus makes an unreliable narrator. I really love those. Anyway, she wants to graduate really bad and go to college and not be sent to a mental hospital, so she tries to keep all of this in check.

She makes friends, she tries to live a normal life, falls in love, all that. This part of the book was kind of interesting but at the same time I wanted more emphasis on the disease itself. Alex's friends are nice and interesting, Alex herself feels like a real person, it's all good...

...Except that the way schizophrenia is portrayed in this book is pretty much the most unrealistic thing ever. Alex portrays only the positive symptoms (named so because they add to normal behaviour, not because they're a good thing) and few to none of the negative ones. It's a special snowflake YA version of an actually serious illness, and that's just not okay.

Sadly, I liked it. My knee-jerk reaction was to give this book a 3.5,/5 and be happy with it, round it up and carefully recommend. But the more I think about it - how inaccurate are you allowed to be without it being dangerously awful? I mean, this amount of misrepresentation should be a crime (kind of like the Leave campaign for Brexit... forever salty.) and how can you give a book like that a good score, no matter what it accomplished (not much, really). So I went back and put it down to three, then two. Now I'll say it's just a half rounded up. The half simply comes from the likeable characters and the one good plot twist that I liked. The rest is just lack of research culminated into a pretty bad book. Charlie especially was so likeable, the little sister I never had. I want to give five stars to Charlie alone and none to the rest of the book.

'“C’m’ere, Charlie.” I spread my arms. Charlie hesitated, then ran across the room and climbed into my lap. I wrapped my arms and the blanket around her. She saved me from trying to figure out how much I should tell her. “I don’t like it when your head breaks.” I knew she was old enough and smart enough to know that my head didn’t actually break, but she’d been calling it that for so long it didn’t matter anymore. I think it made her feel better to think of it like something broken that could be fixed.'

Another problem I had with the book were the side plots; all of them were weird and unrealistic and disconnected; I just didn't feel like they added much to the story. There's this thing about the scoreboard at the high school that was mentioned again and again and again and Alex didn't understand it and neither did I. There is, however, a very good central theme about a lobster tank (red lobsters, to be more precise), and it's a shame it's wasted on a pretty bad book.

The writing isn't that bad, it's just the research that's lacking. And by extension, it's also lacking the care to write a good book. What a pity, really. You shouldn't write about these things without any background knowledge / research or at least asking someone a lot smarter than you. I wish this book had never been published or alternatively, that Alex was just portrayed a different kind of weird. Some fantasy special snowflake weird, whatever. What I read was just plain disrespectful. And I really wanted this to be good, too.

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