Alex is a paranoid schizophrenic in her senior year at a new school. No one at the school knows anything about her past or her struggles and that’s exactly the way she wants it. However, on her first day of school, she encounters a boy who looks like the same kid she hallucinated on the fateful day her disease became apparent. What follows are the typical high school experience of trying to fit in, finding your social group, and some dating. On one level, Alex is just like everyone else, but on another she’s entirely different. There are two mysteries which underlie and propel the storyline. Both are a bit contrived. But here, the larger story is really about a teen who struggles daily with getting and holding a grip on reality. Zappia has portrayed schizophrenia in a (mostly) accurate and sympathetic way. The book goes a long way in dispelling our collective fear of this disease and promoting compassion. We feel for Alex coping in a harsh world ignorant of what the illness is all about.
Which brings me to another book I’m going to recommend. Before I read, Made You Up, I did some research so that I could see if what was being presented in some of the new teen books on mental health were accurate. That book was Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual by E. Fuller Torrey, MD. The first edition of this book was released in 1983. Now in its sixth edition, it offers information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this disease. At its core, it asks what is it like to live with this illness. It shatters common conceptions and outlines the latest science has on what schizophrenia is, what causes it, and how to deal with it. Notice the title says surviving. It is not a light, fluffy read but it is fascinating and illuminating. It comes at the disease in a helpful, compassionate way.
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