Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pub. Date: 2017
Genres: Contemporary YA, Romance
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Eliza Mirk is a famous author of a webcomic, Monstrous Sea, but everyone only knows her as LadyConstellation. She is perfectly happy in her anonymous world with her online friends, her monsters, and her loving-but-confused family. All of this changes when the biggest Monstrous Sea fan transfers to her high school and tries to bring her into the real world. Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters depicts an introverted high schooler, with a few privileges, learns how to balance her needs and interests and how to interact with people off the internet.
This novel is a good read. It was an interesting combination of novel, text messages, and graphic novel text. The synopsis on the inside cover describes someone revealing her identity, but this does not happen until three-quarters of the way through the book. The real conflict is teaching Eliza that she can have a life outside of her computer and art and helping her communicate with her family. The book is engaging, despite the misleading synopsis.
Our main characters are Eliza and Wallace Warland, who is the love interest. Eliza lives in a small town in Indiana where the most interesting thing that happens is people falling off this turn. In relative secrecy, she makes the famous webcomic, Monstrous Sea, from which she has earned enough money to pay for college and new art equipment. She stays in her isolated world, dealing with her family and classmates when necessary. Wallace transfers to Eliza’s high school. He starts passing notes to her in class and at lunch after an incident where they discover that the other loves Monstrous Sea. His motivations and concerns are paced well. Realizing that he is the famous fanfiction author rainmaker, she gets nervous but falls in love with his transcription of her life’s work. They help each other through their issues and to reconnect with the world.
I particularly loved the insertions of Eliza’s artwork and the text telling the story, which I assume is Wallace’s transcription. It helped me develop some love for Monstrous Sea, like the bits of Simon Snow fanfiction in Fangirl. It was also clever for Zappia to sneak her book, Children of Hypnos, into the story under a pseudonym. At least this series exists, and I might read it soon.
Three things bothered me about the book. One: I think it relies too much on our knowledge of what the Midwest looks like, so the setting needs more description. Two: Her parents are extremely ignorant of the internet. This is something I find unrealistic of the type of parents described. Three: Eliza’s interactions with the medical community irk me. I’m mad that her parents forced birth control on her because it should have been her choice. I’m not a fan of her counseling sessions. They’re well-written, and I know that the book receives great reviews for its handling of mental illness. But I don’t like reading counseling sessions.
I recommend this book to writers, artists and members of fandoms. It might appeal to you if you liked Fangirl, but it is not as successful at making you fall for the fandom.