My Rating: 2 stars
Yet another contemporary YA I have complicated feelings on. Eliza and Her Monsters follows Eliza Mirk, who lives a double life. At school, she is shy, weird, and tries to remain invisible. On the internet, she is LadyConstellation, the creator of a hit webcomic. When one of the top fanfiction writers for her comic transfers to her school, the two form a relationship all without him knowing her true identity. I know a lot of people love this book for it’s focus on fandom. And I’ll admit, it’s quite engaging. I flew through it in two days. I really enjoyed Eliza and Wallace’s relationship. It builds slowly, moving from friendship to romance, in a realistic way. No insta-love here! I also just liked the way the two characters interacted. It was sweet to watch them both bring each other out of their shells.
But even though I mostly liked the romance, I hated almost every character in the book. And I don’t have an issue with unlikable characters. I usually love them. But Zappia’s characters are so annoying and infuriating. Eliza has a horrible attitude about everything. And I get it. She’s a teenager with anxiety, so it makes her not necessarily likeable. I really do get that. But I couldn’t stand how whiny and mean she could be. And she has no personality outside of her webcomic. It made her feel quite flat. Her parents are awful. They are completely disengaged with her life, which is understandable to an extent because she does work to keep them out of it. But they are completely oblivious to how popular her webcomic is, something that could be found with a Google search, and are always trying to force her into activities they enjoy instead taking and interest in what she likes. Wallace was wonderful until a point near the end when he does something unforgiveable in my eyes. So in the end, the only characters I liked were Eliza’s brothers, Church and Sully (the parents are also horrible for those names), and their family dog, Davy.
I also took issue with the mental health representation. It’s pretty clear early on that Eliza has some kind of anxiety disorder, and that as a whole feels realistic and well-represented. My problem comes with how it’s handled once her anxiety becomes too much. There is an extremely serious event that occurs toward the end that is ultimately glossed over in a way that felt unacceptable. It needed far more time and discussion.
Overall, Eliza and Her Monsters wasn’t the book for me. I can see why people who are into fandom love it so much. But the characters didn’t work for me, and I wanted more from Zappia’s depiction of mental illness.