Sunday 15 July 2018

#CBR10 Book 53: "Eliza and Her Monsters" by Francesca Zappia

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 5 stars

I was going to start this review the way I normally do, with a few paragraphs trying to sum up the story of the book. But having written nearly two whole paragraphs, I went back and deleted them, because I don't really want to say too much about the plot of the book. I didn't know a whole lot going into the book, and I think my reading experience was better for it.

Very short summary: Eliza Mirk is a teenager soon to graduate high school. Hardly anyone knows that she is the beloved creator of wildly popular web comic Monstrous Sea, which has millions of fans. One day, a new kid transfers to her school, and she discovers he is a fan of her work. They become friends, and Eliza struggles with keeping her true identity from him.

There were a lot of thing that reminded me of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl in this book, except Eliza isn't actually writing fan fiction, but creating her own unique and extremely popular web comic. Nevertheless, the explorations of creativity and fandom, the pressure to perform, the anxiety about not being good enough, what it's like to truly love and identify with something - be it a book series, a web comic (or it could be movies or a TV show) are themes that run through both books.

Cath and Eliza are both introverted and have difficulties making real life connections in the world around them. They both find it easier to interact with people online, something I myself can absolutely identify with. They are both incredibly creative, and feel the pressure to deliver good content to their fans. Eliza has parents who are a lot more reliable than Cath, but they don't really understand their daughter much at all. They find it much easier to relate to her boisterous younger brothers (who I found annoying at first, but who ended up making me cry happy tears because of how awesome they turned out to be towards the end of the book).

Because of the similarities with Fangirl, I was probably a lot harder on Wallace than I should have been. Because Levi is such an awesomely supportive and great guy, I wanted Wallace to be exactly the same, despite the fact that unlike Levi, who is a very laid back and comfortable in his own skin college kid, Wallace is still in high school and has some serious trauma in his past. He also has some pretty heavy parental expectations to live up to, and Eliza keeps a secret of major proportions from him. The fact that he acts like an idiot for a while, instead of just being there for Eliza is frankly much more realistic, it just took me a while to come to terms with this.

As well as writing a really lovely book, which made me feel a vast array of emotions while reading it, Francesca Zappia also illustrates the story, so you can see what Eliza's artwork looks like. In some places, you get the novelisation of her story, which becomes more significant as the story progresses. As is more often than not the case for me with fiction within fiction, I desperately wanted to be able to read the entirety of Monstrous Sea, as well as the book series that Eliza loved as a kid (although it would probably gut me that it was never completed - as it does its fans within this story).

This was such a wonderful book and I am going to have to what else the author has written, so I can get my claws into that too.

Judging a book by its cover: I like that the cover artist has kept the dark-haired girl blurred out for the most part, so the reader is free to imagine their own image of Eliza. Her hands, which she uses to create her art, are in the foreground, holding little animated versions of what I'm assuming is supposed to be Wallace and Eliza. I only question why the girl's hands are paint-stained, as Eliza clearly uses digital tools to ink her drawings. I guess paint-stained hands are a good short hand for artist.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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