Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.
Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds meets Nimona in this novel about art, fandom, and finding the courage to be yourself. Features illustrations by the author throughout. Perfect for readers of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, this is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Made You Up.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza 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. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
To everyone at her school Eliza Mirk is a creep, and to her family she is a loner who spends all her time on her computer working on her ‘hobby’. Online however is where Eliza comes alive. Online she isn’t the shy, awkward girl her classmates see; instead she’s LadyConstellation, the creator of the phenomenon that is Monstrous Sea. Eliza’s life is her webcomic. It’s something she does because she has to create it, she’s dedicated to her fans and determined to provide the best content for them
Until Wallace Warland starts at her school Eliza has never met a Monstrous Seas’ fan in real life. Wallace isn’t just any fan though, he writes fanfiction of Eliza’s comics and loves the characters and the world she has created almost as much as Eliza does.
Around Wallace Eliza comes out of her shell a little; she spends time with his friends, other Monstrous Sea fans, and starts to experience the world away of her computer. The two share pieces of themselves they have never shared with anyone else, secrets they can’t tell anyone else, but Eliza still keeps the fact that she is the creator of Monstrous Seas’ to herself. Until she is outed to the world and her safety, her anonymity, and Wallace all abandon her to face the fallout on her own.
One thing I did think about Eliza and Her Monsters was that the blurb was a little misleading. The way it’s written led me to believe Eliza being outed as the creator of Monstrous Sea would be a much larger part of this book, and while I enjoyed reading her turmoil and struggle when that happened, it happened very near the end of the book. I was left feeling that this meant some parts of Eliza’s journey after her anonymity was taken away were a little rushed in places.
There was a lot I loved about this book though. First was the characters but I’ll move onto them next in this review. Second was the art and the small glimpses we got into the world Eliza has created within this book. It reminded me of the small glimpses of Cath’s fandom we got in Fangirl, and it was certainly a unique way of showcasing the Monstrous Sea fandom that was such a large part of this story.
Eliza is very much an introvert. If she has a choice she’d rather stay on her computer creating more pages of Monstrous Seas, or talking with Max and Emmy, than interacting with the people in her real life. On the computer Eliza can control what she says and who she presents to the world; she’s no longer Eliza Mirk but LadyConstellation. Eliza suffers from anxiety, she refuses to let herself look at the comments on her updates or the forums, and she lets her doubts overtake her even when it comes to the smallest things. In a lot of ways Eliza was a character I could easily identify with, and it made me love reading her development throughout this book all the more.
When it comes to her family it feels like there is a gap between Eliza and her parents, and Eliza and her brothers. Neither of her parents understand Eliza’s interests. They don’t understand her need to create Monstrous Sea and in spite of the popularity the webcomic has they still see it as nothing more than a hobby. In spite of their misunderstanding, which plays a big role in the plot at times, they clearly love Eliza, and only wants what’s best for her; however they and Eliza see that as very different things.
Eliza doesn’t have a good relationship with her brothers, despite them living in the same house, because they don’t share the same interests and as such they don’t reach out to one another. The development between Eliza, Church and Sully, especially as the story commences, was something I really enjoyed but ideally would have liked to see a little more of.
The relationship between Eliza and Wallace was a wonderful one to see grow. I wouldn’t say either character was in a great place when they meet at the beginning of this book, though they may not realise it themselves. However the more time they spend together the more they grow; Eliza starts to live life in the outside world as Wallace introduces her to his small corner of the Monstrous Sea fandom, and in return Wallace opens up to Eliza about his past in ways he hasn’t with anyone else.
Although I loved reading the relationships between them one thing I didn’t like was Wallace’s reaction after Eliza life as LadyConstellation was revealed. While I can understand how he was feeling some of the things he said and did I just didn’t agree with and it really made me dislike his character when you could see how much Eliza was suffering.
While I wish some aspects of the plot and character development has been written a little differently overall I enjoyed reading Eliza’s journey throughout this book. I also loved Francesca Zappia’s take on fandom through Monstrous Sea. Eliza and Her Monsters presented a different side to the fandom; instead of reading a book through the eyes of a character who is only a part of the fandom we saw through Eliza’s eyes who created her own fandom, and it was a very interesting difference.
What did you think of Eliza and Her Monsters? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.