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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Book Synopsis:

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.

I raced through Eliza and Her Monsters in three days, only partially because of the format, but more because it really spoke to me. Probably it would have been less if I hadn't had to do those silly adult things like working and sleeping so that I could work.

Our emotions over things we love are so strong in our high school years, those things are so important to us and they consume us, becoming everything, taking up most of our waking thoughts that are absolutely required for existing and getting through school. I totally get that, I remember it vividly, although with a little confusion now that I'm older, and that slight wish that I could be so utterly consumed by something I liked again, if only for awhile, as long as it wasn't so difficult to come back from.  They are wonderful and yet also torturous times, to be honest, and truthfully I would not go back for anything.

For me it was writing fan fiction about the bands that I loved, and just endless fantasizing over them and scenerios in which we either were them, or factored heavily as girlfriends, friends, etc.  For Eliza it was a story of her own making, a web comic that she poured everything she was into it, with no real thought of what came after.  Her art and the online world in which she shared it were comfortable and safe.  She had become the weird girl in the real world, unable to relate to those around her very well, but online she was a creator goddess, the mother of a story that had taken on it's own life and gathered a huge number of fans.  She was mysterious and powerful in her anonymity, and Monstrous Sea was the only thing she wanted to work on, school was something that she had to do just enough to get by until she could go back to it.  Her family were all very active, her life was online.  Misunderstandings abound, with neither side able to really communicate well with the other, however well meaning.

When Eliza is exposed as the creator of Monstrous Sea, everything comes crashing down, and she is paralyzed in a way she's never been.  She suffers deeply from anxiety that was likely present all along but was something she could escape from until that safe base becomes the trigger, and threatens to undo the fragile life she is starting to build outside of her online world.

Zappia creates very complex and likable characters, even if you sometimes want to wring their necks for their choices or tunnel vision, and remember we're looking at all from that perfect knowledge of outside that is completely inaccessible when you're in a situation.  There is also humor, and finding your tribe, and romance, and that terrible guilt of a secret kept too long.  There is family and self discovery, and so many other things.  I also really enjoyed the additions of art from Monstrous Sea and wish there was an actual web comic to go look at now that I feel like the artist behind it is a real person that I'm rooting for!

I loved it, and I highly recommend it!  I'm looking forward to reading more by Francesca Zappia, I think Made You Up sounds very intriguing!

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