I just finished Eliza and her Monsters and I loved it! What a clever, original book.
The blurb is as follows:
Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.
Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds meets Nimona in this novel about art, fandom, and finding the courage to be yourself. Features illustrations by the author throughout. Perfect for readers of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, this is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Made You Up.
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.
With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.
So the story revolves around Eliza, a smart, geeky, socially awkward and shy high school senior who is the anonymous creator a wildly popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. Her online alter ego is LadyConstellation and only Max and Emmy, a couple of online friends whom she’s never met, know her identity. So in this way, Eliza is basically living two separate lives. In her real life, she’s more or less invisible whereas online, she’s a star! Oh – and her parents are totally clueless as to how famous their daughter is – and how much money she earns from her little “hobby” as they refer to it.
There’s a New Guy In Town
So this new guy, named Wallace moves into town and low and behold, he is a huge — and I do mean HUGE – Monstrous Sea fan. He’s also is introverted and suffers from severe social anxiety.
Now as Eliza and Wallace’s relationship deepens (and there’s no “instalove” — just a nice, gradual slow burn), Eliza becomes more and more conflicted about whether to tell him that she is the web comic’s creator. He is, after all, a major fan. Hell, he even writes Monstrous See fan-fiction. But she decides to keep it a secret and to ride it out because hey, what could go wrong?
The Secret Gets Out
Well, as we learn from the blurb, Eliza get outed and the entire world — well, the Monstrous Sea fandom – now knows the identity of the infamous LadyConstellation and in a flash, her whole world gets turned upside down. Now at first glance, this might not seem like that big of a deal. Okay, you might think, so people on the Internet find out who’s the author of a webcomic. No big deal. But it actually is a really big deal — Eliza is basically the equivalent of a Hollywood celebrity in the fandom world with millions of followers. So the big reveal leads to some major, major fallouts in Eliza’s life such as relationship blow-up, excessive anxiety and the onset of panic attacks.
All About the Monsters
So as the story slowly unfolds, we figure out that the title of the book “Eliza and Her Monsters”, isn’t just only just about the monsters that Eliza creates for her comic but it’s also about her anxiety, doubt, fear, the expectations of others and the way she alienates herself from her family and the outside world. So in this way, the novel does touch on several serious issues as well, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, betrayal and the courage to be oneself but it treats these difficult topics with grace. And in the end, it was encouraging to see the positive changes that Eliza goes through and how she comes out of her shell by end of the story.
I could really relate to many of the things that Eliza was going through as I was also extremely introverted and anxious through my high school years, and had my share of monsters as well. This is probably the case for many of us as those high school years can be difficult for most people in one way or another.
And though we may not personally identify with all the monsters that plagued Eliza, this story can help us to understand these disorders so that we can be more understanding towards our friends and family who experience these issues firsthand. It can also help us in realizing that we are not alone.
The author really has a knack for bringing her characters to life: Eliza, Wallace, Max and Emmy, her brothers Church and Sully and her lovely parents, all of whom where nicely fleshed out, vivid, relatable and most of all likable, making this book accessible to so many people. The characters of Eliza and Wallace were especially complex, and I enjoyed learning more and more about them, leading to an understanding of their motivations as the tale unfolded. I also loved all of the secondary characters and appreciated how no one took on a minor, token kind of role in the book — every character was important to the story.
The story was told through a variety of different formats in the novel: internal dialog, conversation, conversation via writing, chat windows, text messages, screenshots of forum messages and even artwork which correlates to what Eliza is working on — all of this really added an element of realism — and fun — to the story. I’m so glad that I ended up purchasing the hard copy version of the book because the gorgeous art was a phenomenal touch.
From an artistic point of view, Eliza and Her Monsters is an uplifting and encouraging story about fandom, art and going out into the world and creating something meaningful, which renders this emotional story incredibly relatable to anyone who creates or desires to create — or by anyone who enjoys interacting with fandoms, such as ComicCon or DragonCon for instance.
It’s a beautiful journey of a talented young woman who, once paralyzed by her monsters, succeeds in overcoming them and comes out shining at the end of the story.
The book was well-written, the characters meticulously developed with a unique and fresh story. It’s brilliantly plotted and an absolute joy to read. I didn’t want it to end. This is one of those captivating books that you could easily read over and over again, and discover something new with each reading. Recommended!
Trigger Warning: There are mentions of depression, anxiety disorders and talk of suicide.
You can check out Eliza and Her Monsters HERE
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