Eliza and Her Monsters has been on my to be read for so long, and after reading the entire book yesterday, I am wondering why I waited so long to pick it up. I really enjoyed this book.
Eliza Mirk, a high school senior, is the anonymous creator of popular webcomic Monsterous Sea. With only her online friends, Max and Emmy knowing her true identity, Eliza has been creating the comic for three years under the guise of LadyConstellation. Spending all of her time online with no desire to make friends in the real world, Eliza is shy, weird and friendless.
This all changes when Wallace Warland transfers to Westcliff High. Also shy and friendless, Wallace only speaks out loud sometimes. After confronting two football players who are pestering Wallace about the stories he is writing, Eliza finds out that Wallace is a Monsterous Sea fan and he believes she is one too after seeing her sketchbook. At this point, she does not want to tell Wallace that she is actually the creator of the comic.
A friendship forms between the two, through notes on paper as Wallace, does not speak often, and Eliza finds out that he is the most popular fanfiction writer for Monsterous Sea.
So I read this entire book yesterday with only one break to eat. I don’t know why but I just could not put it down. After taking so long and basically having to force myself to finish Siege and Storm it was refreshing to lose myself in a book again. Although I have seen a few people saying it took them a while to get into Eliza and Her Monsters, but for me, it was almost instant.
It was definitely Eliza’s relatability that made this a good read for me. I could see a lot of myself in her character, well other than being an incredible artist, she’s shy, socially awkward and quite weird. All traits that I would relate to my own teenaged self, something that I have seen quite a lot of readers of this book also say. It is not often that authors actually create a teen main character that is actually relatable, however, I believe that everyone can see a little of themselves in Eliza.
Eliza and Her Monsters focuses on the wonders of fandom, online friends and fanart, however, do not let that fool you into thinking that this will be an easy fun read. In the second half of the book, the narrative takes a darker turn. Focusing on Eliza’s anxiety, the death of a parent and suicidal thoughts, this turn gives the book an emotional edge that I was not expecting but is one that made Eliza and Her Monsters a meaningful read.
The Mirk family dynamic is definitely a strange one. Her out of touch parents who do not understand the online world are constantly trying to get Eliza to join some type of sports team, which frankly is quite strange considering they know she has zero coordination except when it comes to drawing. And don’t get me started on her younger brothers, who are 14 and 13, but are often written about as if they are infants. Until their ages were revealed I honestly thought they were five or six.
I don’t mind the dysfunctional family trope however in this case it was not done well and is probably my only negative point for this book. It makes no sense to me that Eliza spends all of her time online and drawing her comic yet her parents never once thought to look it or even try to understand just how popular it is.
For the most part, this book and its characters are seemingly happy. Friendless Eliza finds a companion and possible romantic interest in Monsterous Sea fan Wallace and even finds that she does not need to online all the time. Eliza and Her Monsters showcases how wonderful it can be to be a part of a fandom and celebrates just what that means to people.
I am a sucker for romance and although there was not much in this book this was actually a good thing. YA novels are so often packed full of cliche romance, with boyfriends who do the most outlandish things for the girl they like, all whilst being in high school. This does not always sit well with me. Teen love is something that is supposed to be a little awkward and at times confusing, a reason why the relationship between Eliza and Wallace works really well. They bring out the best in each other whilst still acting like awkward teens who are falling in love for the first time.
The best part of this book for me was the accurate representation of mental health. Wallace has PTSD and selective mutism, something of which is not clearly stated but is presented to the reader so well that it does not need to be. Mental health is something that should be explored, especially in YA and I applaud Francesca Zappia for doing in a way that is not harmful and shows fair representation.
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