Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 5/30/2017
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health
Source: “Comic Explosion” OwlCrate Box – May 2017
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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.
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.
This book was amazing, everything I was hoping Fangirl to be. I loved the way Francesca wrote the contrast between Eliza and LadyConstellation, showing how and why Eliza feels more comfortable in the online world. I also loved the slow burn romance between Eliza and Wallace. Knowing what we do about the characters, the relationship was believable but didn’t seem forced.
I’ll get into this more in the Spoiler Corner, but I loved the mental health rep in this book. Everything was portrayed super authentic and the struggles seemed incredibly believable. Despite this book taking place in high school, people of all ages can relate to the characters. Several of the struggles surpass age and anyone regardless of age can understand the actions and motivation of the characters.
I’m going to start off with my favorite part of this book – the mental health rep. Francesca completely nailed the portrayals of severe generalized anxiety and trauma. She was able to conceptualize and write Eliza’s panic attack with an accuracy many authors cannot capture, letting people truly understand the inner thoughts of someone going through one. Additionally, Eliza’s loss of interest, betrayal, and avoidance was also accurate and understandable.
Wallace’s silence was in the same boat. Learning about the accident and why Wallace stopped speaking was heartbreaking to read about, but was definitely a believable consequence of trauma.
One thing I absolutely loved was that Francesca has her characters seek help, both psychotherapy and pharmaceutical remedies. Too many books forget the benefits of treatment and that treatment is different for everyone. Eliza was taking medication, but Wallace (to the reader’s knowledge) was not. There was also a great scene where Wallace was suggesting that Eliza needed help, but Eliza pointed out that Wallace needed help too, but was not seeking it. Later in the book, after Eliza started going to therapy, Wallace decided to start getting help himself. I also like that both characters sought help on their own volition (yes, Eliza’s parents asked her to go after she stopped attending school, but she decided to keep up with appointments).
I also liked the way Eliza was “outed.” Honestly, I was afraid that she was going to be outed by Wallace or someone recognizing the fan work, or uploading something on one account (personal or LadyConstellation) that should have gone on the others, or some other overused cliché. The fact that it was the parents, took me completely off guard and was refreshing.
I also liked how authentic the reactions to the news were. Wallace had every right to be mad. Eliza’s world turned upside down, it’s understandable that she had the mental health issues that she did, especially since she was already exhibiting signs of severe anxiety. The parents would not fully understand how big the comic got, but they would understandably want to show Eliza that they’re proud.
The mental health rep was spot on (did I make that clear yet?). The characters were relatable. This book was what I thought I was going to get with Fangirl, but didn’t. It truly is a love letter to fandoms and is packed with authentic characters. Even those who are not a fan of contemporary should pick this one up.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ – 4.5 out of 5 Stars