Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Book Description:

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 30, 2017, HarperCollins

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.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

First of all, I would like to highlight that Zappia is an amazing writer. Her lines pull readers into the story, wrapping around their hearts and tugging them completely into the pages. Her talent for writing and drawing merges together to form a masterpiece. In Eliza and Her Monsters, readers are served with two parallel stories: Eliza's life in the real world and her webcomic, Monstrous Sea. The reading experience was reminiscent of that of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but only with more interactive, more insistent and more intense because of the graphics and discussion of quotes, backstory and character arcs.

Eliza was an introvert and a lover of art and its creative manifestations - drawing, writing, creating stories. She was two people at the same time: Eliza Mirk, the invisible girl no one talked to, and LadyConstellation, the mother of a fandom and the creator of the popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza was brilliant in ways that other people weren't. However she didn't excel in social skills, and preferred to connect to the outside world online through her computer and her phone. She was invisible at her school, on the outskirts of the social hierarchy of high school. She spent her days mostly alone and mostly tuning out the outside world. All of her energy went to her masterpiece, Monstrous Sea. Her art was her life. As the story progressed, I saw how she interacted with her fandom and how her schedule was in sync with her online activities: the preparation for the weekly upload of webcomic pages, the actual uploading of the pages and the Dog Days showing on Fridays and the commentaries of LadyConstellation. She was her true self in a sense when she was online. She could shed her insecurities to be who she really wanted to be.

Monstrous Sea captured all of my attention upon first mention. I lived for the drawings spread throughout the novel. The story of Monstrous Sea was so strong and well made that it practically jumped off the pages. Amity, Damien and Dallas were such interesting characters and I wanted to know them better. Sometimes, I wanted to know them more than I wanted to know Eliza and Wallace. The story had a beautiful setting and the magic that was distinctly of Monstrous Sea. I would love for Zappia to publish her work, Monstrous Sea, so people could read the full, glorious story.

Wallace was harder to understand for me. His not talking aloud in public was harder to understand for me. Although I understood the reason behind it, it seemed too drastic for me. Nevertheless, I adored his character. He was a mix of both worlds and plausibly an ideal book boyfriend, except for the part when he would scribble on paper or text to you instead of answering you orally in public. He had some great lines in the novel, reflecting his personality and the way he saw the world. He also had a great appreciation for written and illustrated work, which was amazing. He had some darkness inside him and secrets lurking beneath the surface. I struggled to fully understand him towards the latter part of the book. I felt like I needed more of his backstory to be able to capture and digest his mindset, his opinion and his feelings.

The relationship of Eliza and Wallace was not instantaneous. They were two comets circling a planet, aware of each other's presence but not really engaging. Until they both opened up and realized how similar they were. In Eliza's case, she realized how committed Wallace was to her work, Monstrous Sea. It was the first time that she met a fan in real life and was a bit puzzled on how to relate to him. Eliza and Wallace meeting was the equivalent of you meeting someone with the same interests as you. When they discovered that they both liked Monstrous Sea, their worlds collided. They became inseparable. But how inseparable could two people be when there was a wall of secrets between them? Their relationship was mostly sweet and smile-inducing.

Family dynamics was also tackled in the novel. It was great to see how Wallace and Eliza's families interacted with them. Sully and Church, Eliza's brothers, were the ones who drew my attention the most. As an only child, I never had siblings and never experienced the ups and downs of having a brother. It was refreshing to see how Eliza's brother understood her beyond her expectation. They understood her art and its importance and impact in her life.

Eliza and Her Monsters was engrossing, vivid and ripe with imagination, creative possibilities and love. The novel had me hooked from page one, holding onto my heart with two hands - one from each story: Eliza's story and Monstrous Sea. Even though, I encountered a bump in the road while reading this book, I didn't let that stop me from loving the story. Eliza and Her Monsters was a unique read that I will treasure. I highly recommend this to readers who enjoy dual stories, readers looking for art-related books, and readers of contemporary and fantasy. If you liked Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, particularly its format, then you might enjoy this as well.


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


Win one of two ARCs of Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia!
Open to PH residents (sorry, international friends!)

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  1. Great review! I love novels that are essentially a book within a book. I haven't read anything by Francesca Zappia, but I keep hearing great things about all her books. Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. I love Francesca's books Made You Up and Eliza and Her Monsters! :) I hope you give it a try. And yes, I like that book within a book - such as Fangirl! <3 Thanks for dropping by!

  2. I have loved the concept of this book since I first heard of it! <3 Thanks for the great review! It sounds so, so cute and fun and lovely.

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. I do, too! And to be honest, I'm really hoping that the author will publish a story about Monstrous Sea itself. It sounds amazing.

      Thank you for the sweet comments