This is my Eliza and Her Monsters Review without spoilers 🙂
So, I just read one of my favorite books of the year.
I don’t want to create a lot of hype because part of my love for this book comes from my personal experiences. But as someone who’s not the biggest YA Contemporary fan, I AM IN LOVE.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia is a novel about a teenage girl, Eliza, who is secretly the author of an internet famous comic called Monstrous Sea. Eliza loves drawing and writing her stories, but keeps her identity a secret to live a quieter life. She also has social anxiety, so her closer friends are people she met on the internet. UNTIL… she discovers that the new guy at her school is a Monstrous Sea fan (she catches him writing fanfic!). And this guy, Wallace, slowly convinces her to spend more time offline and make new friends. And she starts to like it, but she’s not sure about sharing her online identity with her new friends. But don’t worry, people will find out and drama will ensue.
What I liked
Eliza and Wallace are great characters.
Also Eliza’s mom.
These three characters felt like real people with their own thoughts and emotions. Even though the book was told from Eliza’s perspective, you can see the other characters go on with their lives and have their own untold plots moving all the time. Wallace is more present so we can see him developing feelings and being more comfortable with Eliza as the months pass.
Eliza’s mom is a secondary character, but she’s always in the background doing something. As the story progresses, she starts getting more worried about her daughter’s mental health, and we can see her trying harder each time to help her.
I loved how most of the characters grow or learn something, even if they spend most of the time in the background.
As for why I liked Eliza’s character, read the next paragraph.
A realistic portrayal of anxiety and mental illness.
I think Eliza’s struggles with anxiety are a great example of what it feels like dealing with it in real life, which can be enlightening for someone who hasn’t been through the same things.
But more importantly, it made ME feel understood. This introvert protagonist dealing with anxiety was so real and so relatable. And I don’t mean it in a “YAAAS, gurl, I get you” kind of way. But in a “Thank you for the validation, I’m so glad I’m not alone and my feelings are being acknowledged” way.
There’s a line somewhere in the book when Eliza says “I want to be happy”. And say what you will, it might be cheesy or trite or whatever. But that single line made me cry at how real it felt. This book deals with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and traumatic experiences and it does it incredibly well.
A look into the “fandom” life.
I just started reading contemporary books last year, so I’m not sure how often they portray geeky or nerdy interests. But it was really cool reading about characters that are into books and comics and things from the internet. I haven’t read a lot of that!
And Eliza’s friends are not casual fans, they write fanfiction, draw fanart (sometimes the spicy kind), have heated discussions in the fan forums and dress up as their favorite fictional characters.
(Is the Harry Potter fandom having flashbacks right now?? Because I am).
What I disliked
This is not something “I disliked”, because I liked everything about this book.
It’s more of a ‘What I didn’t love’. And that is the Monstrous Sea comic. Through the book there are a few comic pages scattered in the middle of some chapters. These are part of the Monstrous Sea comic that Eliza is drawing.
And I thought the idea was really cool, because you read that Eliza has been drawing a monster, and then you get to see the drawing (Sometimes. There is like 1 comic page every 2 chapters). The thing I didn’t like that much is that the comic wasn’t that good. This story is supposed to be REALLY famous, to the point that people cosplay as the characters all the time and some of them get tattoos of the most famous quotes.
But it took a lot of effort to believe in this, because for me Monstrous Sea wasn’t that great. The drawings and the story (at least what we get to see) feel more like fanart or fanfic. Also, there’s this quote that is mentioned all the time: “There are monsters in the sea“. The comic fans love this quote and get tattoos with it and write it everywhere. And it might be silly, but I didn’t get why someone would love that quote.
I get why people love “Not all those who wander are lost” or “To the stars who listen. And the dreams that are answered” or the simple “Always“. Because these quotes are part of a story they love AND ALSO the quote alone has a deeper meaning. But “There are monsters in the sea” sounds a little bland to me.
So, yeah, I’m sorry for nit-picking. I had to do it because I loved everything else in the book.
You should read it if:
- You want to read a story that deals with mental illness in a realistic way
- You’re an artist (or you love to draw, write or make art. Like an artist).
- You like YA contemporary books with introverted protagonists