Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Published: 30 May 2017 (print)/7 May 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Greenwillow Books /Harper Audio
Pages: 385/8 hrs and 51 minutes
Narrator: Caitlin Kelly and Kate Rudd
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

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.

I really enjoyed this book, it was wonderful and a little heartbreaking and surprising but there was also a great familiarity too. The characters and their relationships felt real and each character was fleshed out, even if they were only minor characters I still got a sense of who they were. There are strong friendships that are established but also fresh new ones that grow and seeing Eliza work through these with her own anxieties and coping mechanisms was extremely validating.

Online communities and forums get great representation and reading a book that celebrates loving something enough to create art and fanfiction in a normal, non-judgemental way is great. Zappia captures the relationships and friendships of online interaction really well and I loved how she makes a point of explaining how these connections are just as meaningful as in person friendships.

However, for a story about online communities and finding friends across the country bonding over common interests I will admit I hated that Zappia uses the worn out irksome trope of the “40 year old dude in a basement” which alone is annoying but Zappia goes a little bit further adding insult to injury with descriptions of having Cheeto dust on his fingers and “a Star Wars shirt that doesn’t fit his growing girth.” Look, I get it, it’s a well- known trope but it is a cheap joke and one that I am really tired of seeing dragged out, especially in this kind of book. There could easily have been a better line for Eliza’s apprehension, even just the age would have sufficed, we didn’t need the extra judgement and mocking, no matter the context. Just because it isn’t your fandom, doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

On the plus side, many other stereotypes are broken with the demographic and age of fans for Eliza’s work. I liked that popular internet content is showcased as being for all ages and can hold such important meaning in people’s lives, it isn’t only teenagers but adults too who enjoy the content and consume it and engage regularly as fans online.

It isn’t only the online experience represented well, Zappia also handles issues like depression and anxiety in realistic and believable ways. Eliza’s experience and her fears are conveyed through the narrative naturally and through Eliza’s eyes we see how her mind works to build up these feelings and what triggers them.

Overall I enjoyed this book for giving a space to celebrate the internet culture and the fandom experience. I love that it came from original content and wasn’t based on established media and at times I really wished I could read more of Eliza’s web comic.

You can purchase Eliza and Her Monsters via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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