Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia // the best book I’ve read all year

You may remember my internal conflict abut Made You Up last year.

I wanted so desperately to love it, but ultimately there were too many problems for me to overlook. One of those problems was the lack of description. I was a pretty harsh critic of the author’s writing. I felt like it let the reader down in several spots.

Let me tell you, Francesca Zappia has stepped up her game with her newest release, Eliza and Her Monsters. It’s like she took every negative thing I had to say as a challenge (I doubt she reads this blog, but that’s how it felt, okay?), and as her response, she gave me a book that caught my soul on fire.

I loved it so much.

Goodreads Description
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.

Things I liked
– The story. This book had good characters, but it also had a good plot. You don’t often see both at the same time. It had clear conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion. And though this story has probably been told before (a lot of people have compared it to Fangirl), I found that it was still unique.

– The portrayal. I don’t like to compare this to Fangirl, but since so many people are, I’d like to show a little bit how they’re different. Fangirl does a great job at portraying college from the point of view of someone with social anxiety. It has online life, but that’s not the focus. Eliza and Her Monsters does a good job at portraying someone with social anxiety (also just general anxiety and maybe depression), but it does an even better job at portraying internet culture. Online friends and fandoms are central to this book, and it’s so well done. Her parents often judge her for not having friends “in real life,” but this book says that online friendships are real. They’re just different. (I also liked how her two best friends were 14 and 22 and it wasn’t a big deal at all. They all got along great. Their conversations were some of my favorite parts of the book.)

– The romance. I don’t even want to call it romance because it was so innocent and pure. And though Eliza likes Wallace at the beginning, it takes awhile for their acquaintanceship to grow to friendship to grow to relationship. They both have trouble interacting with other people, and they understand that about each other. It was wonderful. There was absolutely no pressure between them. (THERE WAS, HOWEVER, SO MUCH CHEMISTRY)

– The webcomic. If you’ll forgive another comparison to Fangirl…one thing that a lot of people didn’t like was the Simon Snow fanfiction excerpts (though Carry On was magnificent). It’s not that way here. Eliza’s creation is so beautiful and interesting and detailed. And it’s actually something that the author has created! (You can see the teaser on Wattpad. She wants to get it and Children of Hypnos published if there’s enough interest.)

– Literally everything. I loved that she had a dog (as you know, it’s my personal belief that not enough characters have dogs). I loved how she quoted (and attributed!) Plath’s The Bell Jar, and I loved her spin on the I am. I am. I am. line at the end. I loved the foreshadowing. I loved that Wallace broke stereotypes. I loved that the freaking author drew the freaking artwork! I loved that the author and title by the page numbers changed to LadyConstellation and Monstrous Sea when showing the webcomic. I loved Eliza’s last name. I loved Eliza’s quirky lines and thought process. I loved that therapy was included.

 

Things I had problems with
These are minor issues. It’s hard to say anything negative about this book. So these are some things that bothered me a little bit but were not major drawbacks whatsoever.

– The family communication. Okay, so this isn’t really a big issue because it was one of the central conflicts/themes in the story. The author shows how difficult it is for Eliza and her parents to communicate because they don’t understand each other. And yes, some of that is the parents’ fault. But some of that is also Eliza’s. I felt like through most of it (especially the end), all the blame is placed on the parents. But I think Eliza was at fault, too. She should have tried talking to her parents rather than always brushing them off. That’s part of the reason why they didn’t understand. (Though, to be fair, this is totally something a high schooler would do.)

– The font. I liked the typeface, but it was tiny.

– The lack of subjunctive verb. I’m a technical editor. I’m trained to be picky! This author did not like to use the correct subjunctive verb (she would say If I was to do that instead of If I were to do that). It’s creative writing, so not that big of a deal. But it bothered me.

Consensus
This is the best book I’ve read so far this year (sorry, Nimona). It’s the reason why I love YA contemporary…why I love reading in the first place. I knew I would love it from page 4, and I had such a stupid grin on my face through the first half of it. And the climax pained me. I empathized with Eliza. I rooted for her. And I was sad that I had to close the book and leave her behind at the end.

I wish I could read this book forever.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

–Emily
currently listening to //  Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
~~~
Have you read Eliza and Her Monsters?
What is the best book you’ve read this year?

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