Shannis Reacts: Eliza And Her Monsters (a book by Francesca Zappia)
I have a million things I’m supposed to be doing right now. A million things I’m supposed to be writing. Days Two and Three of my Denver Comic Con diary, anyone? Novel revision? New story about a fairy?
But I bought this book last week. Eliza And Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia. I’ve been missing Maggie Stiefvater and the Raven Boys and have to wait till October till her new book comes out, and even longer for Holly Black’s new solo book. So I was browsing, browsing, browsing. I looked at so many books. I wanted a good YA book that would kind of make me feel the same way those books make me feel. I didn’t find one. Instead, I found a book that makes me feel the same way everything Rainbow Rowell writes makes me feel.
Yeah, that’s right. The book that I said this about on Facebook…
…ended up reminding me of a book by one of my very favorite writers.
I should know better than to say things about books before I’m finished reading them. But look, I’ll be honest: I was real tired, and I had a touch of the PMS. It’s not like I quit reading!
The thing is, I knew Eliza was more than her terrible clothes.
Briefly, the plot: Eliza is a senior in high school who is the secret creator of a webcomic sensation, Monstrous Sea. Only her immediate family knows, and they don’t really get how big it really is. And they don’t really get Eliza, either. She just wants to draw, and spend time online with her friends. She hates school. But then she meets Wallace, who turns out to be one of her comic’s biggest fans. They develop a friendship, but it’s based on a lie of omission: Eliza doesn’t tell Wallace that she’s the creator of Monstrous Sea. And some stuff happens!
I think the best thing about this book is its depiction of online fandom. We’ve all been there: finding a home online to talk about our favorite thing because it seems like no one we know in real life gets it. Writing fanfic, making fan art, playing role playing games as our favorite characters. Making some really great friends along the way. Eliza lives here, with us, and her parents stand in for everyone we’ve ever known who just doesn’t get it. At one point, they even take her phone away and force her to go camping for two days.
Eliza’s rage was my rage.
The other great thing about this book is how well it takes us into Eliza’s artist brain. The need to create, the obsessiveness, the drive… the crash and burn, the terrible relationships with other humans, the failure to care about her hair. It’s fun, and a little intense, and a little awkward.
And Wallace — he’s pretty cool too. He doesn’t speak. Much. It’s kind of an anxiety thing, triggered by an event in his past. He communicates with Eliza most often by passing a piece of paper back and forth on which they write things down. It’s weirdly honest. Not surprisingly, Wallace also likes to write stories — mostly Monstrous Sea fan fiction, but he also wants to major in creative writing in college. His family is not supportive of this plan.
This book made me feel things, you guys.
It made me love Eliza and Wallace. It made me annoyed and angry and sad until eventually it made me happy… but sad-happy, not perky, peppy happy. It made me nostalgic for the heyday of the Harry Potter fandom and all the hundreds of nights I wasted on a little fan forum with my friends because the real world was a little too scary for me at the time. It made me want to write. Something good. I’ll settle for mediocre.
The other super cool thing about this book is that it’s part prose, part graphic novel. That is a thing that appeals to the nerd girl in all of us.
Anyway. It’s a beautiful book. You should read it.