Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Genre: YA / Contemporary
Synopsis: Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.
But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. (taken from Goodreads)
Eliza and Her Monsters is wonderfully written, heartfelt, and relatable. I didn’t think I would end up loving it as much as I did. I’m not a contemporary sort of gal and it takes a lot for me to be able to fall in love with books in the genre. But holy shit, this book took me by surprise.
If the me from two, three years ago could’ve read this, it would’ve been a lot of help. Hell, current me probably cried like nine times while reading because this was the first time I’ve ever read a book that managed to perfectly portray how anxiety works and how the Internet can basically feel like a haven for those who can’t seem function properly (or what society deems as “properly”) in real life.
This probably isn’t as coherent as I’d like it to be but I’m too full of emotions to actually think so I’m going to go ahead and list done some awesome stuff you will find in this book: Webcomic drawings. Realistic characters. Accurate portrayals of mental illness. Communication issues. Online friendships. An adorable romance. Familial relationships. Annoying brothers. Nerds. Fandom culture. And so much more.
Do yourself a favor and go pick up this book. Right now.
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants /raves. Read at your own discretion.
“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt. The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”
You know how people have that one book they can relate to more than anything? The book that they feel like actually understands them?
I think I might have found mine.
This review is pretty much going to be nothing but me gushing. As hard as I’ve tried, I cannot think of anything bad to say about Eliza and Her Monsters. This book had me sobbing like crazy. This book is everything I have ever wanted and more.
I was actually kind of surprised because I had a lot in common with Eliza. I mean, I’m not some secret creator of a super famous webcomic (though I wish I were) and I currently don’t have some cute af romance going on in my life but yeah, everything else is pretty much similar. I even have a younger brother who’s super good at sports.
Dealing with social anxiety is not fun. I lost count of how many times I was nodding to myself and thinking, “YES. THIS. HOLY SHIT” because this book just gets it. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to explain anxiety to other people and how it feels like, especially if you get anxiety over your anxiety.
Look. I’ve only been blogging/reviewing for around four months. When I first started, I didn’t want a name attached. I didn’t put my name on my blog, and I hadn’t been using my real name on Goodreads because it freaked me out. The same way that it freaked Eliza out when her anonymity was compromised. Okay, it was scarier for her because she had millions of fans and unlike me, revealing herself hadn’t been her choice, but you get the point, right?
Explaining to people why I didn’t want my name attached to certain things is difficult. It doesn’t make me any less proud of what I’m doing but it does make me feel safer. I can’t explain why it freaks me out so much. It just does. Even until now, I still worry that maybe an old schoolmate or a current one might somehow find my blog. And it was honestly so refreshing to read about a protagonist who understands why you are the way you are, and why you do the things you do.
All right, onto the book! It was super cool how we get drawings and snippets of the webcomic! Granted, I did feel like there wasn’t enough, and I know I probably wasn’t the only one who wanted to know the ending to Monstrous Sea. I mean, it had Emmy and the rest of the fandom going berserk so yeah, I want in on the secret. Did Amity die? If she did, is that some sort of metaphor for Eliza “killing” her monsters? I need answers, man.
Our protagonist is Eliza, the creator of Monstrous Sea, and queen of her fandom. I absolutely loved how Zappia wrote Eliza and her anxiety. It’s sort of the focus of the book but at the same time, it’s not? I don’t know how to explain it better, except that everything about Eliza was just so natural. I feel like oftentimes, those who don’t experience anxiety themselves have an exaggerated idea of how people with anxiety are actually like. Anxiety doesn’t always mean panic attacks or being incredibly insecure. Anxiety also means being irritable towards other people without reason. It means expecting the worst from others despite knowing how irrational it is or somehow being unable to do even the smallest things, no matter how much you want to.
“I’m so tired. I’m tired of anxiety that twists my stomach so hard I can’t move the rest of my body. Tired of constant vigilance. Tired of wanting to do something about myself, but always taking the easy way out.”
Eliza isn’t the only one who suffers from some form of anxiety though. Her love interest, Wallace Warland (genius name, by the way), has trouble speaking whenever there are too many people around. He’s described as this hulking, typical-football-player-looking guy… who likes to write Fanfiction. It is so damn refreshing to see characters who don’t fall into stereotypes. No unattractive nerd in glasses. No pretentious know-it-all geek. Wallace is a normal guy just who happens to be a mega fan of Monstrous Sea. Nothing overly geeky or uncool about that.
Going back to the whole communication issues, I love how both Wallace and Eliza sucked at talking. I love how they understood that the other sucked at talking and rolled with whatever they were most comfortable with. Constantly writing on paper isn’t the easiest way to talk a person in front of you but Eliza never really questions Wallace. She just accepts him as he is.
Internet friends! I like how this book shows that internet friends can be just as valuable as friends you hang with in real life. Usually when people (parents) think internet friends, they automatically dismiss them as friends that aren’t actually “real” friends, which is complete bullshit. Friends are friends, and it doesn’t matter if you’re chatting face-to-face or from behind a screen. The online conversations between Emmy, Max, and Eliza were super enjoyable to read! And I love how the conversations also show how internet friends can be reliable. Emmy and Max were always ready to give Eliza advice and were always there if she just needed someone to talk to.
Another thing I like is how Eliza’s issues are acknowledged and by the end of the book, she is shown to be getting better. I was so afraid that her anxiety would be brushed aside or be magically cured or something and I am so glad that didn’t happen. The idea of a therapist is brought up and Eliza actually has an appointment with one in the later chapters. Oh, and Wallace ends up seeing one too! Then we’re shown how the age gap between Eliza and her parents, as well as having little in common, puts a strain on their relationship. Later on, their lack of communication with each other is acknowledged and remedied, thanks to the intervention of her younger brothers.
Something I found to be rather thought-provoking: Eliza’s relationship with her fans. Monstrous Sea started out as this thing that Eliza did because she wanted to. A form of escapism. But then it grew into something big, and fans began to expect. Eliza began to fear disappointment. It’s an interesting topic, really. How something you once loved so much and so passionately can suddenly start sucking the life out of you, all because of expectations.
I could go on and on about other things I loved but then this review might end up at 10,000 words. If you’ve read this (which I’m assuming is the case since you’re in the spoiler-y part of my review) and loved it as much as I did, feel free to gush with me. I have a lot of feelings. But if you haven’t read this, I sincerely hope my review managed to convince you to pick it up because this book is definitely worth the hype and well worth your time.