“I made Monstrous Sea because it’s the story I wanted. I wanted a story like it, and I couldn’t find one, so I created it myself.”
― Francesca Zappia,
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
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.
A month ago Eden posted all about her love for Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. Since then she’s continued to urge me to pick it. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit reluctant to start this book. I don’t like going into books with a preconceived notion. But, I trust Eden. And she didn’t let me down. This isn’t really a dueling book review because I agree with Eden. But, here’s my opinons:
This book feels important. Do you ever have that feeling? Where you read a book and it resonates with you so much that the vitality of seemingly sparks off of the page? That was prevalent throughout this book. Zappia brought to life a world that is known to many readers yet is not regularly discussed in popular culture.
Fandom and fanfiction are vital components of media. They are as old as popular culture itself even if there wasn’t a name for it. However, fanfiction is often looked down upon by people who just don’t get it. From 5th grade on I was an avid fanfiction reader and writer. Yet, I was embarrassed to admit it. I am so happy that books like Eliza and Fangirl are finally breaching the topic in a positive light. Fandom and fanfiction are generally positive things. They invoke creativity and friendships. I am so happy to see someone shine a light on it.
Another critical component in this book was mental health and the role that family plays in helping or hindering it. In this book we see two very different family dynamics with very different conflicts. Eliza and Wallace are not portrayed as broken nor are they perfect. They are teens who are experiencing things intensely. There are extremes in the moods, thoughts, and actions. They feel like real teens with struggles. Mental health is unpredictable. Triggers don’t always make sense. The reactions don’t always make sense. But, it happens. I love that Zappia didn’t create a way to “fix” the problem. The characters aren’t broken. Nor is anxiety, depression, suicide, etc. glamorized in this book.
I related to Eliza so much in this book. Throughout my school as well as my career I sometimes feel utter hopelessness because of stress. I worry about things and have so much anxiety about them that I just avoid life instead. This in turn leads to depression which starts the whole cycle over again. Eliza’s struggle with merely getting out of bed, never-mind looking at the project causing her stress, is authentic.
Zappia created a beautiful world inside of a wonderful characters mind. Just like Monstrous Sea resonated with the fans in Eliza this book resonates with me. Also, I neeeeed to read Monstrous Sea. So, if a book could happen for that it would be great. I’m already starting The Children of Hypnos because I just can’t wait.
Are you a fan of fanfiction? If so, recommend me some of your favorites!