Book Review – ‘Made You Up’ by Francesca Zappia

What do you do when you don’t know what is real?

Made You Up Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 428

From Goodreads:

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. 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 classes begin, and 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. 

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This was a brilliant little story that gripped me from beginning to end.

I don’t know if my deductive skills were on point, but I had sleuthed out all but one minor plot reveal well in advance. But even though the book felt predictable in that sense, it has a weird charm that enticed me.

Protagonist Alex’s schizophrenia is scary and comical, and kept me as a reader on my toes – eyes always sharpened to try and discern what was fact and what was delusion. ‘Made You Up’ has a certain style and charisma. A romantic heart. And all the characters are flawed in some way. Even though Alex sees things that aren’t there, they operate on an instinctual level, making sense of the world and confirming hunches, about what might be going on under the façade we all put up.

Made You Up Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere is a lot of subtext going on with ‘Made You Up.’ And I had to sit and think for a while after finishing the novel to form some realisations. I won’t go into any detail because I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s reading experience if you are yet to pick up ‘Made You Up.’ But suffice to say, there is very little in this novel that doesn’t have some sort of meaning to the plot.

I loved the positive message it sends to those afflicted with some sort of mental illness. It’s treatable, and doesn’t morph the sufferer into a criminal, a molester, or a monster. They are simply people who deal with the world in a different manner and should be afforded the rights and dignity of any human being.

I really wanted to see the bullying tackled in a more head-on way and dealt with responsibly. There was so much unchecked behaviour in this novel that had me, a former high school teacher, grinding my teeth. Totally unacceptable. And a large part in why events escalated as far as they did in ‘Made You Up.’

It was a wonderful depiction of schizophrenia – not that I have any experience or professional knowledge of the condition – merely just an observation on how Alex really could not distinguish reality from episodes. How that affected her relation to the world at large. How would any of us deal with not being able to trust what we see and hear without context? It was beautiful in a way.

Made You Up Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Miles was an interesting love interest. Quite possibly on the autism scale, but never confirmed. It was as if his way of viewing the world countered Alex’s. In their weird banter and practical jokes were a different form of witty conversation that we see a lot of in YA. This felt truly authentic and unique.

Even though the parents weren’t absent, it felt like they were. It was almost abusive. It is a shame they did not get involved in Alex’s life more – or maybe it was easier to keep that distance? Maybe Alex would have pushed them away? It’s hard to get a beat on it, other than their behaviour did not sit well with me from the outset.

For some reason I thought it would be a shorter book – but it was still a quick read. Completed in a few sittings. Though the pacing got a lot better after the halfway mark, and the narrative interesting, I did feel like there was something missing to really push it up for a perfect rating. On reflection, I want to say emotion. Romantic angst. Something to drag more of the feels out of me. ‘Made You Up’ was intellectually interesting but emotionally so-so.

Definitely recommend this to everyone. It’s a standout for subject matter, style, and individuality.

Overall feeling: Superb!

Made You Up Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Made You Up Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Real Live Boyfriends’ (#4 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

The final book in the Ruby Oliver Quartet… boys and mental illness.

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 225

From Goodreads:

Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
* her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos
* her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator
* Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar
* Gideon shows up shirtless
* and the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks? Will she ever understand boys? Will she ever stop making lists? (No to that last one.) Ruby has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humour.

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‘Real Live Boyfriends’ was a pleasant end to the Ruby Oliver series. Overall, I didn’t enjoy it so much – it’s all high school drama and teen angst, and the writing style E. Lockhart uses in this collection is skewed for a tween demographic. So it left me feeling old and unsatisfied. At least they are quick reads and lightly entertaining in that watching your younger siblings or nieces and nephews go through those years when appearance, and boys and girls are EVERYTHING. Reminds me of similar books like ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.’

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI enjoy realistic fiction in this target market and ‘Real Life Boyfriends’ is an important novel because it deals with love, crushes, parental relationships, and mental illness in a light-hearted but serious manner. Plus, protagonist Ruby seeing a Councillor (and recommending it in the footnotes) shows some great practical devices to deal with the issues brought up in the series as a whole.

It ends on a lovely note and we do see some character development from Ruby (finally) though I wouldn’t say it was as fully formed as I’d liked – but hey, she’s still a teenager and has a lot of growing up to do and life to experience. As with these novels, there are a lot of boys and flipping from one opinion to another on a dime, but Ruby seems more grounded in her convictions.

My favourite character has to be Polka-dot, the Great Dane and loving canine pet of Ruby and her family. At times he had more personality than his human counterparts.

Real Live Boyfriends’ was a cute reading experience, but on the whole, not something I particularly enjoyed or would want to read again. I’m too old and cynical to enjoy the writing style or subject matter. But that’s just because I’m not the intended audience, so duh! But I would recommend this to my tween nieces in a pinch. They would think these novels are hilarious.

I was entranced by some of E. Lockhart’s other works, hence the addition of this series to my collection. I’m glad I got to have read them, but it not a series that will resonate with me past the day I finished the book.

Overall feeling: Oh my hip! Boy I feel ancient!

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Treasure Map of Boys’ (#3 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

Ruby Oliver does it again in her boy-obsessed crazy world.

The Treasure Map of Boys (#3 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 208

From Goodreads:

Things are looking good for Ruby Oliver. It’s the thirty-seventh week that she’s been in the state of Noboyfriend. Ruby’s panic attacks are bad, and her love life is even worse, not to mention the fact that more than one boy seems to giving Ruby a lot of their attention. 

Rumours are flying, and Ruby’s already not-so-great reputation is heading downhill. Not only that, she’s also:

* running a bake sale
* learning the secrets of heavy-metal therapy
* encountering some seriously smelly feet
* defending the rights of pygmy goats
* and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

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This didn’t feel as annoying or juvenile as the previous two books in the series. You can feel our protagonist Ruby is growing up. But she is still all-boy-consumed. Boy-crazy. I kept wondering if she was going to find something else in life other than her obsession with the opposite sex and what everyone thought of her… and we get a glimpse of it.

I feel like she slowly starts to come to the realisation of how the people around her actually treat her. What their real motives are. It was the first refreshing moment I’ve had while powering through this series.

The Treasure Map of Boys (#3 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe addition of Polka-dot was also a breath of fresh air. So too was working at the zoo. Something about animals and Ruby’s interactions with them humanised her more than anything else I’ve read so far.

It was nice to read that all the boys had faults and good points. That they were real. That there are no movie styled endings or plotlines to how life pans out.

And this book actually felt like it had some substance and an ending. Ruby finally had a turning point, or and epiphany that spoke to me. I’d been breezing through this series with no real connection or interest, waiting for E. Lockhart to dazzle me like I have experienced in her other novels, and I finally got a tiny glimpse of it. While I’m not yet ready to shout about this book series from the roof tops, I’m beginning to grow an appreciation for it. Yes, it is pitched at a tween girl demographic, and usually the writing is easy enough to digest – but with all the footnotes, the ‘ags!’ and goldfish attention span, it was very difficult to connect with the material. But I’m sensing a shift in the dynamic. With only one book left in this collection – and the glimmer of hope I’ve gotten, I’m actually looking forward to the final book. Slightly invested in Ruby’s plight.

Stay tuned to what will seal the deal of my opinion of the Ruby collection in ‘Real Live Boyfriends’….

Overall feeling: mmm I’m starting to like it…

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The Treasure Map of Boys (#3 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Boy Book’ (#2 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

Ahh… back to the time when a girls brain is addled by boys, and tormented by mean girls…

The Boy Book Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 208

From Goodreads:

Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver’s junior year at Tate Prep: 

Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.
Cricket: Not speaking.
Nora: Speaking–sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school–once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn’t called Ruby, or anything.
Noel: Didn’t care what anyone thinks.
Meghan: Didn’t have any other friends.
Dr. Z: Speaking.
And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.

But with a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to “The Boy Book” and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.

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The Boy Book’ was more entertaining than the debut (‘The Boyfriend List’). The main reason for this was down to less annoying juvenile tangents in the narrative, as if both the protagonist Ruby and the author suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Look! Squirrel!The Boy Book’ has a charming quality. Though I still skimmed, it was much less than in the first book of the series, and there were even a few laugh out loud moments.

You clearly get a sense of Ruby evolving. Through her shrink and introspection – though she still does not understand why she has the impulses she does. I did get annoyed with Ruby and her boy-brain. I mean, sort yourself out and make a decision girl. I’d be greatful to have one interesting man wanting to initiate a relationship. Clearly I have sour grapes… now that I’m a dried up raisin with no attention flinging my way from the opposite sex. Maybe I should hire a sky writer? But I digress…

There’s still the turmoil and drama of high school, the passive, and not-so-passive bullying. The girl code. It was amusing but not all that interesting for me. I was excited about the slight change in tone, like Ruby getting more mature; hopefully leading to an even better read in the sequel ‘The Treasure Map of Boys.’ I have no patience when it comes to bullying in real life, so when it drags on in a novel without any definite measures taken to alleviate the situation, I feel like I’m sitting there, boiling in frustration. But: bravo to E. Lockhart for tackling this issue. Especially while the protagonist is dealing with mental health issues.

The girl dynamics are very true to life. And I think this is the shining light of ‘The Boy Book.’ Some friendships come and go, some need work and can be repaired. And some are strong no matter what goes down… and you just have to roll with the punches. Very representative of my youth. I still miss some of the girlfriends growing up in my home town, but inevitably people change and move away (and drop off the face of the map so there’s no hope of stalking them online.)

The Boy Book Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Dr Z seemed to play a more prominent role and show a bit of personality. Which I found as a great reprieve. For the authority figure, and the one who is helping Ruby come to terms with her mental illness, is both a valuable resource, and a human being.

The Boy Book’ has some fun parts and is a fast read. Cute quirky humour. I enjoyed the family dynamic more as we see Ruby’s parents seeming to get along better.

An okay, fun and super-fast read for the younger end of the YA demographic. Slightly elevated my opinion of this series. Interested to see what the next book brings.

Overall feeling: Flashback to my own school experience *I’m scared*

The Boy Book Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Boy Book Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Boyfriend List’ by E. Lockhart

A cute teen diddy.

The Boyfriend List (#1 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlile.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Ruby Oliver is fifteen and has a shrink. But before you make up your mind about her, you should know that she has had a pretty awful (and eventful) past ten days. She has: 
* lost her boyfriend
* lost her best friend (Kim)
* lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
* did something suspicious with a boy
* did something advanced with a boy
* had an argument with a boy
* drank her first beer (someone handed it to her)
* got caught by her mom (ag!)
* had a panic attack (scary)
* lost a lacrosse game (she’s the goalie)
* failed a math test (she’ll make it up)
* hurt Meghan’s feelings (even though they aren’t really friends)
* became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
* and had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom (who knows what was in the boys’!?!).
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But don’t worry, Ruby lives to tell the tale. Through a special assignment to list all the boys she’s ever had the slightest, little, any-kind-of-anything with, comes an unfortunate series of events that would be enough to send any girl in a panic.

I really enjoyed E. Lockhart’s previous novels and thought the Ruby Oliver books would be a fun addition. Previous read ‘Fly on the Wall‘ was hilarious juvenile fiction… but ‘The Boyfriend List‘ was, well… babbly. Think a teen on crack with A.D.D. – it jumped about everywhere, and I couldn’t decide if it was adorable or distracting.

I liked the message and the moral of the story. It takes a healthy approach to mental disorders and provides tools with how protagonist Ruby manages her issues, especially in navigating high school life, boys and bullying.

The character growth Ruby goes through was appreciated, and how we get a strong undercurrent of female empowerment. But because this book was so in the wheelhouse for its demographic, I got bored from the small tangents and footnotes, and really didn’t appreciate the juvenile narrative of it all. I know it is meant to be humorous and really mimics the short attention span of teens, but it kept pulling me from the narrative.

I’m just too old to find most of ‘The Boyfriend List’ charming and funny. And if I was a tween that’s exactly what I’d think of this book… Though I do like E. Lockhart’s writing and our protagonist Ruby graduates at the end of the novel, so maybe the writing style matures as she does, so I’m going to continue with the series and see where it leads.

This was a cute book, but not one I could relate to.

Overall feeling: Boy I feel old now… eep!

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The Boyfriend List (#1 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlile.jpg

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.