Say you’re going shopping. You visit all your usual stores and don’t really find anything. You stand outside that one store you have a love-hate relationship with. Ninety nine times out of hundred it disappoints you. But there is always that one time you find something wonderful. So the question is: will this time be THE TIME?
This sums up my relationship with Young Adult Novels perfectly. I diligently stay away from them for the most part. Once in a while, I’ll take a little peek or dip in my toes just so. Sometimes the water’s muddy, sometimes scalding hot and at times freezing cold. At times there’s stuff floating in it and I promise myself I will never do it again. But there are also times when it’s just right, warm and comforting, times when it’s magical.
Thankfully, for me, this as one of those times.
I came across ‘Made You Up’ when I was loading books on my Amazon cart. I have fallen in the habit of downloading sample chapters of practically every book I think would tickle my fancy and then decide – after reading the sample – if I want to buy it or not.
The story follows Alexandra Ridgemont, a young seventeen year old girl suffering from scizophrenia and paranoia. She can never be sure of what is real and what is delusion. Sometimes, she even suspects her mother of poisoning her food.
There is a statement at the beginning of the book, about people taking reality for granted. I have never been more aware or thankful of the reality I live in till I read this book. While it certainly sounds magical at times (having a phoenix fly over your head as you go home, trees that don’t change colors as the seasons change, listening to your toys talk to each other at night), I realize how dangerous this is too. What happens when you see something dangerous and react to it, only to realize it was all in your head? What happens when you don’t react to something, thinking that something so ridiculous or strange can only be a hallucination and then learn the hard way that it was a threat all along? More than the story line or the slight mystery elements in the book, it was this underlying thread of questionable reality that really resonated with me.
As far as character development goes, I was not particularly happy with Made you up. While Alex’s character’s development was clearly visible and at center stage, the rest of them seemed to be mere aids in her development. For them to appear as real people, it is very important to give them believable background stories and arcs as well. A few characters like Miles and Celia stood out, but the rest may as well not have been there.
This book also deals with bullying and harassment and addresses it very cleverly in one of the scenes. One of the characters does not know on whom she is inflicting pain and thus is fine with it. She seems to think of it as simply an experience she has never had before, a stint at a daring life. It is only when she realizes that it is one of her friends that’s the intended target that she realizes how horrible the deed is. I thought this was pretty darn insightful; bullies probably only think of what they’re doing in terms of the satisfaction or excitement they get out of it. May be, if they pause to think what it would be like if it was one of their own friends or family member or girlfriend/boyfriend who was at the receiving end of such cruelty, it could change the way they think.
There were a few things I found extremely puzzling: for someone who has such severe problems and has to meet her therapist twice a week, we don’t see the therapist at all, until the very end of the book. I would have liked to see more of the therapist that everyone has on speed dial actually handling the outbreaks, addressing the issues, helping Alex. Also, regarding that big secret is revealed to Alex near the end of the book (I cannot say more lest I spoil it for you), shouldn’t the therapist be talking the parents out of it? It seems pretty obvious not to have kept it a secret. Another thing that could have been better handled with a therapist.
To sum it up, I thought Made you up was an interesting and engaging read. I read it pretty quickly (in less than two work days, I believe). It is not like most of the cliched or typically predictable Young Adult Novels and for that I am truly grateful. It is books like those that make me want to venture less and less in that particular arena.