Book review: Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Eliza Mirk is weird.  She’s shy.  She’s a loner.  She’s also the creator of the wildly famous webcomic Monstrous Sea, and she’s meticulous about her privacy.  You see, she can face her fans (and her critics) from behind a computer screen.  She can participate in group chats and release her art to millions.  But dealing with even one fan in person?  That might be enough to send her over the edge.

When Wallace Warland transfers to Eliza’s high school, she finally begins to come out of her shell.  She starts doing things outside of her house, talking to people outside of the internet. When Wallace tells her that he’s one of Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writers, Eliza still keeps her identity a secret. But despite all of Eliza’s efforts, her secret identity is eventually revealed to the world, and everything she’s so carefully constructed falls apart.

Well, what can I say aside from wow?  I loved Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up and was a little hesitant to read Eliza because what if it wasn’t as good?  But it was so good that I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.

I loved Eliza.  I felt so bad for her and I wanted to protect her and keep her safe from all her stupid classmates and haters and everybody who was anything less than in love with her.  I loved Wallace.  I felt so bad for him and I wanted to protect him and keep him safe from everybody in the world who saw him as some kind of emotionless dumb jock.  I loved Emmy and Max, Eliza’s online friends who were always there for her and reinforced the idea that a friend is a friend, regardless of whether you’ve met face-to-face.  I even loved Eliza’s siblings, Sully and Church, who came across at first as your typical aloof teenage boys and turned out to be so much more.

Eliza brings up some important issues about mental health and content creators and how nobody should hurt themselves to make their art.  Something that I think fans often forget is that a real person is behind that screen, on the other side of that pen, or recording that album.  Content doesn’t just show up out of nowhere, and yes, sometimes it takes a little longer than expected.  Sometimes the creator goes on hiatus.  Sometimes the creator falls right off the face of the earth, never to be seen or heard from again.  And that’s okay.  Because the creator’s mental and physical health is so much more important than what they’re making.  What good is content if it’s killing the creator?

My only criticism of this book is that I saw literally every twist and turn of the plot coming.  That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it was more fun to see how Zappia would resolve the conflicts, but I did wish for just a touch more of the unexpected.

Still, I thought that Eliza was an amazing book and I would love to read both Monstrous Sea and rainmaker’s fanfiction about it.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

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