Erica Robyn Reads and I recently buddy-read Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. After messaging one another to say that we had each completed the book, this happened:
H: I’m not even sure how to review this book. I immediately revert into caveman Heather, "IT GOOD. READ. NOW.”
E: Ah, right??!?! That’s how I started my review!!! I was like: I don't even know where to start... I just kept typing “I LOVE THIS BOOK!”
Needless to say, we agreed that this would be the perfect book to roll out an idea we have had for a while now; H & E Bookish Chats!
But first, if you missed either of our reviews, feel free to check them out by clicking below:
They're both spoiler free, where the discussion will not be! So SPOILER WARNING!
This is part two of our discussion, go here to read part one!
Now, let’s jump into the chat!
H: One of my favorite aspects of the book was the way the author portrayed fandom and the internet as a whole. Like it was this living beast that needed to be fed and monitored otherwise it could get out of control. The way Max has to go through and ban/delete nasty comments, and the way Eliza feels obligated to meet the expectations of her fans. There are so many great things about the internet, like we talked about in your post, but there are also a lot of pressures that come with being so connected with a large amount of people who can directly send you messages upon messages at any moment. Even me, who doesn’t have a large audience, I feel sometimes guilty when I don’t post on my blog for a few days or I freak out of I realize that there’s been a typo in a published blog for x amount of days. You can tell the author has been in fandom herself, by the way she writes it.
E: Oh, for sure! I feel that same guilt when it comes to scheduling posts and finding typos. I always get so upset and I’m like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I wrote x-word twice there?!” Ha! Luckily, I have you and my friend Ross who never hesitate to point out things like that, and I always super appreciate it! But back to the guilt, I think that has a lot to do with our pride when it comes to publishing. I know we are both so proud of what we each have done here so far, and that we cannot wait to see where it goes. When someone loves something that they do this much, there will always be a little guilt when something isn’t “perfect.”
H: Exactly! "Maybe that's normal. The things you care most about are ones that leave the biggest holes." This is a great quote that describes exactly that! The things that you care about the most are the things you feel the most obligated to keep perfect. I think there’s a lot of pressure that comes with the internet, especially when you’re portraying a piece of yourself. You want to look the best you can, and since our writing (and Eliza’s art) is a piece of us, we want that piece that is being shown to anyone with the internet, to be perfect. And if it isn’t, you feel a bit like you failed.
E: Right! And we’re always our own biggest critics!
H: Exactly! I also think that anxiety and even mental illness can play a huge part in having issues with control. Which we know Eliza has, because when she loses control in her life she gets defensive and angry. Which kind of brings me into the topic of my other favorite aspect, which is how mental illness and anxiety is portrayed in this book. I think it’s such a realistic portrayal of anxiety. From her not liking to talk much in school to not looking at the comments on Monstrous Sea. Even moments where Eliza has to run to the bathroom and lay on the floor for a couple minutes after Wallace shows interest in her and asks her if he could kiss her. What I also thought was really great is the fact that Wallace had anxiety also, which is great because I was worried Wallace would be the “silent save the day” type when we first met him. Instead he also had issues when it came to talking out loud around people he didn’t know. The scene where he writes a whole email to her, telling her everything about his past, and saying he had to write it versus saying it outloud because he found that easier. I think that’s something I really related to, as both someone with anxiety but also someone who forms words and thoughts better by writing verses talking.
E: Oh my gosh, the author totally nailed this topic. I always get so nervous that it will be either overdone or sugarcoated… but this was seriously perfect. I saw a lot of my high school aged self in some of her anxiety filled moments. So definitely like you said, the author made this really easy to relate to as a reader. And man, I am so jealous of Eliza’s ability to avoid the comments (of course until later on, when she just couldn’t help herself). That is one thing that I really wish I could learn to do. There are far too many times that I get so worked up after reading the comments section of a post or news article...
H: Right! What I also love about this being a great portrayal of mental health is that there will be young readers who see themselves in Eliza and seek help! Especially since there are so many books that revolve around mental health, but because everyone’s mental illness is different, I think Eliza’s is one that is more commonly related to. The author did an amazing job with putting us in Eliza’s shoes. The moment she read the newspaper section written about her by her parents, and I read the words “Monstrous Sea” I gasped and said “Oh no!” I felt anxious, my anxiety was through the roof. I felt for her, because I related with her.
E: Oh definitely! I really liked that a lot of her anxiety seemed to center around social situations. This was a new portrayal for me in my YA reading history, most of what I have read in YA books seems to center around depression, bullying, body image, and et cetera. Not that those topics aren’t incredibly important to discuss, my point is just that I like that authors are really starting to branch out, or at least it seems that way. We’re getting more coverage of a wider variety, which is great!
H: Right! The more diverse mental illness representation, the better it will be for readers who relate to know that not only is there nothing wrong with them, but that there are people out there like them! Now, onto my cons! My biggest (and really, only) con was that I didn't like Wallace's change in character when he finds out about Eliza being LadyConstellation. He ignores her for weeks - I'm assuming that he knew she slipped and fell and hit her head since she was the hot topic in that school for so long. And instead of at least sending her a text to see if she was okay. He ignored her for a couple weeks. And then shows up at her house not to find out if she's okay but to demand something of her. Something she doesn't owe to anyone. He understands the internet, and fandom. He understands the kind of danger Eliza could be in now that her name, where she went to school, maybe even her address was out in the world. I get that he apologized and realized he was being a jerk. But in the end he still gets what he wants even after such problematic behavior.
E: Oh yes. I didn’t love the change. It definitely seemed like it was more of a plot device than anything else. I was so out of character for him! I get that teen’s are awful with communication sometimes...but texting was their thing, and just shooting her a “Hey, you okay?” would have been nice!
H: Right! He could still be angry at her, his anger is valid and warranted. But he ignored her for weeks! Knowing she had high anxiety, knowing that she went through great lengths to keep her identity a secret. I didn’t expect them to make up quickly, but I also didn’t like that during her time of need, she didn’t have him to check in on her. It rubbed me the wrong way. Especially since he was so demanding of her to finish the comic mostly for his own selfish reasons. I get that he really needed something like this to prove to his family that his writing wasn’t a hobby but something he wanted to do full time. But he put his wants above her safety, her emotions. I think there wasn’t enough resolution at the to redeem his actions. Especially since they’re all lovey dovey by the end.
E: Yeah! Especially where he clearly had anxiety as well. It just didn’t line up with the rest of his personality. And that demanding bit was so not okay. I almost wanted her to not finish the comic just in spite of him. Did he ever even apologize for his demands?!
H: I don’t think he apologized. I think he had an umbrella apology “I’m sorry for being a jerk” or something like that. What really rubs me the wrong way is that he gets what he wants. He is writing his book at the end of the story. I would have liked if maybe he proved that it didn’t matter to him, and at least offered to turn down the book deal. And maybe she convinced him not to. Something to show that he was legitimately sorry.
E: YES. That would have been so much better. Or just one little line, “If finishing the book is affecting your health, don’t worry about finishing it.” Something like that.
H: Right! I just feel like her being forced to finish something that means so much to her seems so wrong. She feels enough pressure from the CRAZY amount of people online relying on her to finish, she doesn’t need it from her boyfriend. It sucks too, because their romantic storyline is really cute for most of the book. It’s innocent and sweet. He seems so innocent and sweet. And then all of a sudden he’s aggressive and demanding and it didn’t feel okay. I think I would have given this five stars if I felt like there was more of a resolution.
E: Shoot, yeah. I’m rethinking my rating now, and you’re totally right. This was something that really confused me and I almost texted you to be like, wait, who is this guy?! But I was too busy cruising through because I had to know what happened next!
H: The great thing about the writing is that it definitely sweeps you off your feet and has a hold on you. I felt the same way, it wasn’t until after I was skimming through the end again that I realized he seemed like a totally different character than the sweet and nice guy Eliza first met! I love that Wallace is the one that loves fanfiction, because it’s definitely seen as an activity mostly done by young fangirls. And I understand he had a lot of pressure on him, but Eliza is going through some serious stuff. And I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just feeling anger about her lying to him because he had weeks to deal with it! He could have talked to her like a normal human. All he did was put more pressure on her which put her in a deeper art block.
E: Yes, exactly! It was just too uncharacteristic for him.
H: Exactly. I think it could have worked as his story arc if he had a known anger problem and there was more resolution, but because there wasn’t it just wasn’t enough for me.
Thanks for reading!
Please be sure to check out Erica's half of the discussion if you have read them out of order! And please let's discuss Eliza And Her Monsters below!