Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Published in: 2017
Genres: realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, romance, mental illness
“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.”
I loved that both Eliza and Wallace were socially awkward. It made them so easy for me to relate to. As someone with social anxiety myself, I was able to really empathize with them. Like Eliza, I spend much of my time online rather than in the “real word” and I find it much easier to talk to someone online with a screen between us than in person. So I really understood her struggles with those around her pressuring her to get away from the computer and get a “real” life, and not acknowledging that that’s possible online too.
Eliza is shy and doesn’t have any friends in real life. Her closest friends are Max and Emmy, people she’s never met in person. Max is 22 and lives in Canada, while Emmy is 14 and is attending college in California. Whenever Eliza has to talk to someone face to face, she gets really nervous about it and struggles to do so. She prefers being on the computer where she is known as LadyConstellation, the creator of the popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Her parents don’t understand this and don’t realize exactly how big Monstrous Sea is. They think it’s just a small hobby. While they are obviously concerned about her and love her very much, they wish she would just get out more and take an interest in sports like her younger brothers did.
Wallace is the writer of the most popular fanfiction for Monstrous Sea, known online as Rainmaker. He has selective mutism as a result of a traumatic incident that occurred several years ago. He has a hard time actually talking to people when there’s a lot of other people around, but is more okay with it in a small group. Or else he communicates by writing or texting. He lives with stepparents who care about him, but don’t understand him either.
Eliza and Wallace first meet when Eliza stands up for Wallace when he was being picked on for writing fanfiction. They meet again the following day in homeroom. Their first conversation is written in notes and many after that are either in notes or texts. Wallace saw some of Eliza’s sketches of Monstrous Sea and thinks she’s just a fan and she doesn’t correct him. From then on, they hang out with each other at school and outside of school. They understand each other like no one else does. But then Eliza’s identity is revealed to the world.
Once her secret is out, everything crumbles. Wallace is angry at her for not telling him, especially after he revealed something very personal about him. Everyone wants something to do with her and won’t leave her alone. Her parents are oblivious to the full extent of what’s happening and are until her younger brothers stand up for her and attempt to explain everything. Through all this, Eliza starts to spiral into depression. She loses her motivation to draw anything despite it previously being the one thing she loved to do above everything else. The one thing she could always do. She even comes close to ending it all (and I’m not just talking about the comic). Then she begins seeing a therapist who helps her realize that who she is and what she makes are different things.
The majority of the novel was written in prose, but in between, there were texts, forum posts, and pages from her comic. This was something that I loved and I thought it added to the story. It made it feel more like I could really see into Eliza’s world.
And the title. Eliza and Her Monsters. I felt like it could have two meanings. The first one being more literal, meaning Eliza and the monsters she created in her comic. The second one being more metaphorical, using monsters in place of inner demons, to describe her struggles with her mental health.
I absolutely loved this book! I definitely recommend it.
Rating: 5/5 Stars