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.
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.
As the blurb suggests, if you loved Fangirl, you will certainly love this book. Eliza and her Monsters takes us into the mind of Eliza, a fangirl and a creator. She writes the webcomic Monstrous Sea under her psuedoname LadyConstellations, thus maintaining a separate identity from the creator of the webcomic. In real life, Eliza is the quiet loner in school, the one who has social anxiety and tries to stay under the radar. Her main life in online, her friends are online and her community and space is online. If you are part of a fandom, you can relate to how liberating it is to lead a life online, in the midst of others who share your own passion.
The main reason to like the book is Eliza herself. Aloof, geeky, and vibrant, Eliza is a girl you can relate to. For her, her webcomic is her baby, and she is protective about her secret. She keeps her real identity from her fans so that she can live her life in relative peace, without the burdens and expectations that would come from being out. When she meets Wallace, who is a fan of her comic (but doesn’t know who she is) and is a popular fan-fiction writer for the series, she is blown away by how much he understands her work. The two essentially bond over a shared passion, and fangirls and fanboys will recognize that connection. Being a creator and putting her work out for the world to see along with her heart bared is something that she isn’t prepared for when she gets outed. Here, I would like to mention that I am not a writer – I don’t know how it would feel to have the expectations of a million people hanging on to your next written word. But Zappia makes me understand the loneliness that Eliza feels, the burden of pleasing the fans, the fear of not being enough, the guilt over her block.
As readers, we voraciously demand content and yes, that is passion, but also sometimes it can be something constricting to the creator, and even if I realized it subconsciously before, the author actually put it in words. It is a beautifully written book about what is means to have an identity, the change in definition of interactions in this digital age, the myriad options opened up to creators, and most importantly, choosing to do what you love. That final message is the one that is the most significant for the target audience.
Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide in the book on more than one occassion.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss.