Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Category: YA Contemporary
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books/30 May 2017
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.
Apparently 2017 was the year of books finally starting to make me cry, and this book was no exception. I loved this book. The anxiety rep hit me really hard while I was reading it, and I felt like Eliza was a lot like me back in high school. She’s intelligent but more or less alone in meatspace, and her parents don’t understand her interests at all because they don’t know that much about them, and it causes a rift in their relationship with her. This story portrayed this perfectly without outright demonizing Eliza’s parents (although I was pretty angry with them for taking away her sketchbook while she was on a camping trip… Really? You’re not going to let her draw out in nature when that’s literally the only hobby she could maybe make use of out there?).
For the most part, I liked her relationship with Wallace. I really enjoyed how Eliza normalized Wallace’s nonverbal tendencies by writing and texting back and forth with him and not expecting him to speak when he didn’t feel comfortable. It was refreshing to see this portrayed as completely normal and accepted, as I’d never seen this before and this is also something I relate to. The only time I really got frustrated with Wallace was *mild spoiler* when he tried to pressure Eliza into finishing Monstrous Sea because he needed it to be completed in order to profit off of it himself. *end spoiler* This made me pretty upset because up until that point I really liked him, and with his own anxiety issues I felt that he, of all people, should understand why she was struggling.
Eliza’s younger brothers weren’t super present for much of the book — they mostly existed to be the “sporty” siblings whom their parents actually understood and related to, in contrast to Eliza — but my favorite scene in the book was when *mild spoiler* they stood up to their parents and explained the severity of their outing Eliza without her permission. *end spoiler* I loved how they showed that even if their interests don’t really align with Eliza’s, they still cared enough to understand what she was doing and why it was important to her. Siblings can be frustrating, and Eliza’s brothers certainly got that way for her at times, but they really came through for her and I found this moment really touching.
Eliza’s anxiety spikes near the end of the book, and it felt very claustrophobic. If you have anxiety like I do, you may want to take care while reading the latter half of this book as it may raise your blood pressure a bit while you’re reading. Her anxiety was well-written and felt so real and relatable to me. I also love how she went from resisting help to accepting it, even just a little bit. I was very much like that myself, and I think it’s great to have books showing that it’s totally okay to seek help for anxiety issues.
This book was definitely a favorite read of 2017 for me, and I highly recommend it.
Final rating: 5 of 5 stars