Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia / ★★★ 1/2
Summary: Eliza is LadyConstellation, the author of an incredibly popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea, but in her real life she is a strange, shy, completely anonymous teenager, and she likes it that way. Then the biggest Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, Wallace, transfers to her school.
I didn’t make Monstrous Sea to be a phenomenon – I made it because it was the story I wanted. I make it now because there’s something inside of me, crushed around my heart, that says I must do it. This is what I was put on Earth to create, for me and for my fans. This story. This is mine, and it is my duty to bring it into the world.
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
I enjoyed reading this book more than I actually liked it, if that makes sense. It grabbed me right away and I blew right through it, and it was an easy book to read for large chunks of time. It wasn’t difficult to get into at all. If you’ve spent any time in internet fandom culture, you’ll find this book relatable, and perhaps even inspiring if you’re a creator yourself. I read the first 100 pages of this book and it made me want to work on something of my own so badly I put the book down and went and wrote 2,000 words of my own long, ongoing project (I’m such a slow writer that hardly ever happens). I loved the concept of this book and the author executed it fantastically.
It was the last third of this book that things started slowing down for me, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but a big reason I didn’t love this book was the romance. It was cute at first, but it didn’t really hold my interest as it grew deeper. It wasn’t poorly done, it was that the dynamic between Eliza and Wallace rubbed me the wrong way near the end. And I understand the points the author was making with her plot regarding social anxiety and whatnot, I knew what she was critiquing and exploring, and as someone who always struggled with social anxiety more than anything, I was surprised by how much I just…didn’t enjoy that aspect of the story. Again, it wasn’t done poorly. It’s hard to critique it when it’s not bad, necessarily. I just wasn’t feeling it. I think there was a lack of sympathy on Eliza’s part that I wasn’t a huge fan of, like her social anxiety was an excuse for it. Not that it isn’t realistic, I just wasn’t into it.
A point Bionic Bookworm brought up in her review that I really had to agree with was the fact that I didn’t feel as involved in the web comic as I would have liked. I still enjoyed what I saw of it and learned of it, but I think it would have been an even better experience if I actually felt like a part of the webcomic fandom by being shown more. Maybe it would have helped me sympathize more with the reactions of certain characters, some of which also rubbed me the wrong way. I also wish there had been more pages of art, simply because those were fun. I loved the imaginative side of this book and the side by side progression of Eliza’s real life story along with her fictional one.
I liked Eliza, and I really liked her voice in this book, but I think she’s a character I would have enjoyed more if I’d read her as a teenager, perhaps? I could relate to her as my teen self, but to be honest…I did get kind of impatient with her at the end. I could appreciate her development, but I felt like a lot of her complaints were a bit drawn out. Maybe I’m just insensitive, but again, I don’t entirely disagree with how she was written, I just wasn’t feeling it.
As for Wallace, I liked him at the beginning, he was sweet and cute and strange, but I really wasn’t a fan of his by the end of the book. Again, I understand him, I understand what the author was doing, but he made me angry. That’s where my question about this book lies: were we supposed to be angry with Wallace, or are we supposed to be sympathetic? Both? Either way, Wallace is the primary reason this book didn’t really gel with me, unfortunately. I just really didn’t like him by the end and I felt he’d really spoiled it. However, I did like the way Wallace and Eliza represented the two sides of fandom- creator and fan, and how they work together and where the tension lies. I loved that aspect of their dynamic.
I also really enjoyed Eliza’s family, especially her brothers. And I really liked Emmy and Max a lot, I always enjoyed when they came in.
I really, really enjoyed the style of writing of this book. It felt very friendly, was very easy to read and never took me any effort to fall right into. I liked how it was interspersed with the art.
Was I satisfied?
I found the ending much less satisfying than I hoped it would be, but that had much more to do with preference than that it was executed poorly, because it wasn’t. But I loved the imaginative side of this book and found it really inspiring, so if you’d like to read a book that explores what it means to be in an internet fandom, I’d definitely give this book a read.