Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Published: May 30th 2017 by HarperCollins
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary
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.
(More of a 3.5)
LadyConstellation is the hero who defeats Eliza Mirk once a week and celebrates with her many admiring fans. She is beloved by all, even the villain, because without her the villain wouldn’t exist. I am LadyConstellation. I am also Eliza Mirk. This is the paradox that can never be solved.
This book is the cute contemporary everybody who has ever been involved in a fandom enough to read or write fan fiction or draw fan art of it needs to read. This book gets it when it comes to fandom culture. The main character, Eliza Mirk, is the anonymous creator of a webcomic that millions of people read. She lives a Hannah Montana-esque life, in which online she is the famous and revered (and pretty rich) LadyConstellation, creator of webcomic Monstrous Sea which she adds pages to every week; in her personal life she is Eliza Mirk, an introvert who has no friends and hardly ever speaks in school, with parents who would much rather hang out with her two middle school brothers than their weird hermit daughter who spends all her free time hunched over her computer and drawing. (How much of a run-on sentence was that??)
The plot didn’t hit as hard with me as I know it will with other people since I haven’t really been involved in a fandom this much. I read some Harry Potter fanfiction here and there when I was younger, and I remember writing a lot of fanfiction for the Harvest Moon games (of which there was actually a surprisingly large community that I was too scared and too young to interact with). So some of this book definitely made me nostalgic and appreciative for my younger self, but a lot of this book takes place on a forum which I, uh, have never used and have no clue how they work.
The situations in this book are very real. I feel that a lot of the topics written in this book are going to hit home with a lot of people. Whether it be playing a passionate and involved role in a fandom, feeling anxious in social situations, feeling guilt for letting down followers, or feeling the frustration that comes with older generations not grasping the realness of online relationships, this book is extremely relevant and comforting when it comes to everything surrounding shy people on the internet. (Like me!) Also the less serious stuff: the love interest having a goofy name that Eliza’s friends laugh at, Eliza’s middle school aged brothers actually acting like middle schoolers, the weirdness of trying to fit into an already formed friend group. The book becomes so easy to click with.
The writing is wonderful. The quote above is just one of the many examples of the smart, crisp, punch-in-the-face kind of sentences Zappia writes. Plus the book was consistently funny and the dialogue between Eliza and her friends/Eliza and Wallace never seemed uncharacteristic or cheesy, and everything they said either strengthened their personality traits or the relationship in general.
There’s pictures!! Zappia draws illustrations of Monstrous Sea, ranging from notebook sketches, to digital artwork, to full chapter pages, and sprinkles them throughout the book. I really appreciated this aspect; it made the popularity and plot of the webcomic easier to understand and also, like, who doesn’t want pictures in their books?
Okay, it’s not that bad, but I really can’t stand the whole “this one thing goes wrong and consequently ruins everything that’s been established as something that brings the main character happiness” type of conflict. If that makes sense. Like the main character losing their reputation, their significant other, and all their friends in one fell swoop, for example. I don’t know, this book may have been the last straw in breaking my tolerance for this type of conflict since it wasn’t really as dramatic as that, but it was so clear from the beginning that this conflict was going to happen and it could have been so, so, so easily avoided…but it wasn’t. And I’m a lil salty about it.
This ties in with the conflict…and to fully explain why it got under my skin so much I’m going to spoil a part of this book, so if you want to read this book you should skip this section!!! Okay, so in the aftermath of the Conflict (in which Eliza’s online identity is revealed)…the way Eliza’s relationships unfold is very off-putting to me. In two distinct moments, I remember thinking “this isn’t how you should treat another human being” and Zappia never really mentions the wrongness of it. The first time being how Eliza treats her parents. Technically, they revealed her identity because they wrote in to the local newspaper for the graduation section (since Eliza was graduating and it was kinda necessary for them to write something) that they were proud of her for creating a webcomic. And so, understandably, Eliza gets really angry with them because her identity is now public knowledge. But, and I stress this: they didn’t know how popular her comic was. Because Eliza thought they wouldn’t understand and hid it from them. And when they explicitly tell her that they didn’t know, she never tells them she forgives them. Even her brothers shove a computer in her parents faces until they start crying. And then she still doesn’t forgive them. It just kinda made my skin crawl.
And the second instance was her boyfriend’s complete lack of empathy for her situation. She never wanted to be known and now her real identity is out there for millions of people to pick apart and he just ignores her because she lied to him about being the creator. And when he finally does show up at her house, he never comforts her – he just yells at her while she’s curled into herself crying in the corner of the room. And when she tells him she’s sorry – repeatedly – and that she doesn’t think she has the motivation to finish the comic anymore, he gets mad at her all over again because if she doesn’t finish, his ‘agent’ won’t let him publish his fanfiction and make money off it. And then he storms out of the house. And Eliza feels like garbage. Which she shouldn’t. She was completely justified in what she was feeling, but her boyfriend keeps knocking her down until she thinks about killing herself. And she never confronts him about it! He says he’s sorry for being an “asshole” once he knows she was about to kill herself, but that’s as deep as his apology goes and she just takes him back without question.
The book still has a warm & fuzzy resolution where everyone kind of forgives everyone, but the conflict left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just like 20% of the book where all this goes down, and the other 80% is definitely worth reading, but I couldn’t find any other reviewers talking about these parts and I kinda wanted to put it out there.
Aaaaggghhh, I feel like every post I make now has me apologizing on it somewhere for not being more active. Which, uhhhh, is still very true. Sorry!! But fear not, I’m posting three days in a row to hopefully get me back on schedule. And also replying to comments and liking posts. In three days I should be all caught up! Should be. I’ll try my hardest.
Anyway, did you guys read this book? Did you like it? Did you feel a little weird with the conflict like I did? Let me know!! ❤