Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

“Creating art is a lonely task, which is why we introverts revel in it, but when we have fans looming over us, it becomes loneliness of a different sort. We become caged animals watched by zoo-goers, expected to perform lest the crowd grow bored or angry. It’s not always bad. Sometimes we do well, and the cage feels more like a pedestal.” 

Eliza and Her Monsters is an in-depth book that I wasn’t quite expecting. I kept hearing comparisons to Fangirl , so I assumed that according to this and the blurb of the book, it would be a novel centered more on the relationship between her and Wallace, and therefore more of a fluffy romance. However, in reality Eliza and Her Monsters is more about Eliza and her relationship with mental health and the online world than anything else. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, what I enjoyed most about reading this book was the connection I felt to the character. I couldn’t quite relate to Eliza on her preference of staying in her room all day and staring at a computer screen, rather than going outside or spending time with her family. But that’s simply because if I’m left on the computer all day, or in a single room for that matter, I start to get in a gloom and instead feel the urge and need to go outside for a walk just to get out of my headspace.

That being said, I can’t quite put into words how much I understood and sympathized with some of Eliza’s feelings and thoughts. This was one of those books where I often found myself reading something and thought, “Hey that’s me! How did she put into words something I haven’t even been able to figure out for myself?” I understood Eliza’s resistance and hesitation with any sort of interaction, because it’s something that’s been programmed inside of me as well, and no matter how much I try I’ve never been able to shut it off. Something like sending a simple text, or saying something meaningless, is something I can’t do without having thought about it at least a dozen times beforehand, and then another two dozen times afterward when I’ve begun to scrutinize what was probably a perfectly normal exchange to anyone else. 

Slight Spoiler Warning here: I understood completely when she missed Christmas morning, because of how immersed she was in her work. I lose track of time and forget to sleep or eat if there’s something I know needs to get done. I go into this overload mode where without meaning to I shun myself to the rest of the world, because I feel this immense pressure and dread that if I don’t get this thing done something terrible will happen. Much like Eliza.

Most importantly, I understood her frustration with talking. Sometimes I just have so much buzzing around in my head already that the task of explaining what might be something simple for me, but abstract to someone else, becomes laborious and exhausting, and instead I get angry and say nothing. 

I enjoyed this book because of my relationship to the character and the sympathy I was able to draw up when panic and anxiety arose in the plot. These are things I’ve struggled with for the majority of my life and it was nice to see it explained in ways I couldn’t in a YA novel. But all that being said, there were also minor things that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. 

Although, I loved the drawings and the small portion of concept I was able to grasp, I wish that Monstrous Sea had been explained further, so that I could’ve understood why it was such an adored comic. In the end, I’m not even sure I know what it was about aside from the fact that there were stars and monsters. The drawings and writing just didn’t seem to correlate with the rest of the book, so that was a bit frustrating when it felt like I was starting to get into certain parts of the novel.

I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance. It was cute and simple in the beginning, but I feel like Wallace got lost somewhere in between and towards the end. He became this huge part of Eliza’s life, but I didn’t feel like he was ever fully developed. I didn’t understand her tie to him, except that he’s her first physical relationship outside of her her family, but other than that I never felt like I really knew him. He just seemed like a caricature, which is a shame because in the beginning he seemed so promising with his engaging personality as rainmaker.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but would definitely classify it as more of a mental health book than one of romance or fandom.

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