Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

31931941“There comes a point in every girl’s life where she reaches a crossroads: a night alone with her sweatpants and her favorite television show, or a party with real, live, breathing people.”

By day, Eliza is an awkward and unpopular senior at high school. By night, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the artist of Monstrous Sea, a webcomic with millions of readers. Her best friends are Max and Emmy from her online community, who she considers as more valuable than anyone she meets in real life. Other than Max and Emmy, no one knows who LadyConstellation is, and Eliza wants to keep it that way.

One day, a new student transfers to Eliza’s school. His name is Wallace, and he is Monstrous Sea’s most popular fanfiction writer. As Eliza gets to know Wallace, her perspective on the world begins to shift. The problem is that Wallace thinks that Eliza is just another Monstrous Sea fan, and Eliza doesn’t want that to change.

Young Adult / Contemporary / 385 pages

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about Eliza and Her Monsters, and I was so SO excited to read this one. My expectations were set very high in the beginning, and the book didn’t quite meet them. That’s not to say that it was bad. I liked it. It was all right. It just didn’t amaze me.

I loved the realistic portrayal of mental illness. Eliza is a character who shies away from social interaction. She is awkward and she doesn’t quite know how to interact with people outside of the online community. She prefers to be in her own room with a computer screen. Eliza’s anxiety is subtle in the beginning of the story. We sense it, but we think of it as part of her personality. But it creeps up on Eliza as the story advances, and Eliza is forced to confront her “monsters”. I like that the book speaks about mental health in a subtle manner. I also like that mental illness is not portrayed as something to be fixed, but rather something to be coped with.

Eliza is a complex, multi-faceted character that we can relate to. She is not perfect and she has flaws like the rest of us. She fears speaking to her classmates, which is fuelled by her low self-esteem. And her worst fear of all is to have her identity as LadyConstellation revealed to the world. Although Eliza cares about her friends and her fandom, Eliza doesn’t have the best relationship with her family. She doesn’t get along with her brothers because they don’t share any common interests. And she doesn’t think that her mom and dad understand her. Throughout the story, we watch Eliza grow as her perspective widens and her relationships begin to change.

Wallace is an interesting character, and he and Eliza share an amazing chemistry in the beginning of the book. Wallace is shy, and he finds it difficult to communicate when he is surrounded by many people. As he and Eliza get to know each other better, he slowly warms up to her. I loved reading the dialogue between these two characters. The lines are sharp and witty and I could feel the growing attraction between them. However, Wallace’s actions confuse me towards the last third of the book. I could not understand the motivation behind his words and his actions, and it seems almost like Wallace is a different character. This aspect of the main conflict in the story did not make sense to me.

Max and Emmy are fun characters to read about. Although they are Eliza’s trusted sidekicks and partners in crime, I love that they have their own lives to live. Eliza’s brothers are an annoyance to Eliza in the beginning of the story. As the story unfolds, we learn more about them and begin to see them as the individuals that they are. However, I am not as fond of the adults in this book: Eliza’s parents are quirky, but they quite never develop beyond that. There is one scene with Eliza’s parents and brothers that I dislike towards the end of the book, because it feels orchestrated and out of character for everyone.

This book is a fast and easy read. The characters drew me in and kept me interested enough to keep turning the pages. I loved the illustrations and I loved the two stories within the story (Monstrous Sea and the Children of Hypnos), both of which are very imaginative.

Bottom-line:

Eliza and Her Monsters is a good book. I love the witty dialogue and I can feel the chemistry between Eliza and Wallace. I love the subtle way that mental health is portrayed. However, I am do not understand the characters’ actions at the end of the book.

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12 thoughts on “Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

  1. Lovely review, Sophie, thank you so much for sharing! I’m sorry to hear you felt a bit confused towards the end of the book – it is so frustrating when you can’t understand the characters’ motives and actions. I’m still glad to hear you overall enjoyed this book – I have it on my TBR and I’m impatient to read it, but I’ll be on the lookout for that frustration, then 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a wonderful review. I keep seeing Eliza and her Monsters popping up on my timeline but I never gave it much thought until recently. I love that this book has a subtlety in the way it explores mental illness. Not understanding a characters actions has got to be the most frustrating part of any book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Yes Eliza has been quite popular lately which is how I found out about this book! It is frustrating to not understand the characters’ actions, but I do think there are people who feel differently than I do and didn’t mind that part of the novel. Hope you enjoy this book if you do decide to read it some day!

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  3. This is definitely on my TBR list and Ive requested my library purchase it…. for sure I need to read it for the mental illness part of the story and I. Glad you enjoyed that part of it… I thought there were illustrations too? Maybe I’m mixing this book up with another… that’s terrible the end was confusing…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes there are illustrations (from Eliza’s comic, Monstrous Sea), which are pretty awesome 🙂 And for sure I love how it incorporates mental health themes. I know other bloggers who didn’t mind what happens towards the end, so it really depends on the individual! Hope you like this book when you do get a chance to read it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Eliza and Her Monsters tells the story of Eliza, the artist of a famous webcomic who struggles with making friends in real life. This was a super fast read for me, and I loved the dialogue, the illustrations, and the focus on mental illness, though I was not too thrilled about the last 1/3 of the book. My review is here. […]

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  5. Seriously, I’ve heard so so many good things about this book!! And Max & Emmy!! I have a feeling I’ll really be able to relate to Eliza, PLUS I flipped through the book at a bookstore and the illustrations are adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

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