Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. For fans of Silver Linings Playbook and Liar, this thought-provoking debut tells the story of Alex, a high school senior—and the ultimate unreliable narrator—unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She's pretty optimistic about her chances until she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She's not prepared for normal. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her?
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Alex's not sure what's real or not. Her way of coping is taking photos to verify if indeed what she's seen isn't a delusion. After one skit at a hospital, she goes to another school where she meets Miles, who it seems has his own issues. Something about him seems familiar and she finds herself gravitating to him even when he does everything he can to push her away. Senior year is hard enough without everything else that comes Alex's way. Will she push past her fears of others judging her for being 'crazy' or stay in her own world.
What worked: EVERYTHING. First off, Alex is schizophrenic as she sees delusions and has a hard time between what's real or not. Her first incident happened when she was young and thought a lobster in a lobster cage at a market pleaded with her to set him free. At first I wondered if children that young could be schizophrenic but some of my own recent encounters with children younger than 10 opened my eyes that yes, this can happen. It would have been easy to paint Alex as paranoid and very unlikable but instead Zappia digs deep within her characters, showing the vulnerabilities and strengths. So much of Alex's journey resonated as being real and not just another tired cliche. So kuddos for that!
Miles is at first the unlikely love interest. He has his own quirks which I thought were more sensory issues like him putting everything into categories and a dislike of anyone touching him. At first there really isn't any chemistry between the two but it builds first from trust and then goes on from there. **There is one scene where Alex asks Miles to spend the night. This is where readers give a glimpse of the vulnerability between the two which is honest and very raw.
There's a host of other characters too like her sister Charlie, co-worker Tucker, Mean Girl Celia, and others. Each one is painted with their own strengths and quirks. Even the Mean Girl isn't totally one dimensional.
There are some scenes that are totally amazing like one where Alex is asked by her teacher to check out why the lights in their classroom are flickering. There's an urban legend about a missing python that circulates around campus. Alex, not sure what's real or not...Let's just say what follows was a holy what the heck moment! And there is one reveal that took me off guard. I was reading this book while waiting for son at Mathnasium. When I read, I shouted, "No way! No flippin' way!" Love when an author is able to surprise me like that.
Honest portrayal of a teen dealing with schizophrenia that has a THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER meets SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK feel and wowza moments throughout. A top 2015 YA book that deals with mental illness in a realistic and honest way.
This book pulled me out of an awful reading slump during which I started four books and got bored ten minutes into each one of them. So, for that, thank you Ms Zappia.
This book is about Alex, a girl who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia which makes her, for the sake of this book, an unreliable narrator. She starts a new year in a new High School because she fucked up attending her last one. Here she’s the new kid and tries really hard not to make anyone find out about her condition. She befriends a new bunch of people amongst which there’s Miles. His face and his personality remind her of someone who cannot be real but she’s drawn to him nonetheless. During the year she does good and fucks up again, all of this accompanied by occasions in which you cannot really understand whether she’s allucinating or not.
“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said. “You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”
I found the writing fast paced but also weird at times. In more than one occasion I found the dialogues forced and awkward. I’d have preferred the High School setting not to have been so obvious and cliché. The bullies should have been given more space and depth, also because, in at least one occasion, that would have made us sympathize with one of them a little bit more. Every now and then the story felt like it was trying to cram together too many topics: bullism, mental illness, romance, mystery, drama… So there were moments in which I didn’t know how much more I could take. Nonetheless I did really like this story. You see the world through the eyes of a person who’s deemed “insane” by society, someone who needs a lot of help but is given almost none. In more than one occasion you’d just want to take Alex and marathon with her the entire series of Scrubs, drinking hot chocolate, cozying into a pillow fort.
And the major plot twist… AAHHH with all the tv shows I watch I should have seen that coming!
The Regan introduced in the prologue I had an instant like for and felt for as she struggled to talk about what had happened to her. The Regan in the first chapter, three months before, almost seemed like a completely different person at first. I found myself wanting to know what had happened to make her go from how she acted in the first chapter compared to the prologue. Regan as a bully was not a likeable character but I wouldn’t say she was completely unlikeable either. She was a girl making some horrible decisions in order to keep her secrets and achieve what she needed to get her mother off her back. It never came across as justified excuses for her bullying, which I liked. After her e-mails and texts and every bullying message she’d left was exposed, it was hard watching Regan get torn down by people she considered friends. It just got worse from there and what she had to endure at that school, no one should have to go through. She was slowly changing because of it, which was great to see, and I really like the person she discovered she was. In some ways, Regan reminded me a lot of Blair from Gossip Girl, especially at the beginning.
The writing was fantastic. I found there was a specific vibe that I would feel in the writing when something bad was going to happen soon, which got my nerves worked up wondering what it would be and how much more could Regan possibly take. Regan’s anxiety attacks were so well written. Just reading them made my own chest hurt in sympathy.
I thought there was a lot said in this book that needed to be said and it was powerful. Regan was forced to see just how much words can hurt, both from getting words flung at her and the ones she’d said about others. She saw how easily people will turn on you just to save themselves from becoming a target. She experienced it, she fought to survive it, and she wanted to change it when too many people stay silent.
A very rewarding book that will hopefully make people who read it think twice before they say something about someone because words do hurt.
*I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.