My Love-and-Hate for Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Just like always, I jumped into Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia without really knowing what this book was all about. Based on the word “monsters” in the title, I assumed that the main focus of this book was the demons inside Eliza, the dark side buried that she tried to fend off mentally. What I didn't expect was, these were not the monsters inside her, nor that they were something scary and unwanted.

Eliza Mirk is not an ordinary high-schooler. Even if she's shy and socially awkward in real life, Eliza's webcomic titled Monstrous Sea is widely known on the internet and has gained a massive fandom. Feeling protected by the anonymity that the internet is able to offer, Eliza explores her love for arts behind the username LadyConstellation, and shares her true identity with only two online friends: Max and Emmy.

When a new boy at school is bullied for his love for Monstrous Sea, Eliza is shockingly quick to come to his defense. By making him believe that she is also a fan, Eliza starts getting to know Wallace Warland, his reluctance to talk in public, and his way of asking Eliza to explore real life together. It's not until her true identity is out for the public to know that she risks losing everything she has built with all her heart.

To be honest, it took me quite a while to decide how many stars I would give this book. Eliza and Her Monsters was definitely a good read with quite an interesting topic. For starters, Eliza was so immersed in her online world, which was also where she found solace, and that's exactly what happens to a lot of teenagers in real life. I personally thought that it was great for Eliza that she had Max and Emmy to vent toboth were extremely good people with good intentions, and I loved them for that.

Second, the webcomic and the fandom. I loved having sketches and cuts of the webcomic in between Eliza's point-of-view. It seemed to emphasize the stunning outcome of Eliza's imagination and its complex world-building. The Monstrous Sea fandom reminded me of the bookstagram community, and the similarity brought something akin to comfort to my chest. I miss being a part of an online community that shares an interest in books. It's so fun to gush over something online with people who truly understand.

As much as I loved this book though, disappointment took over when these things below happened (spoilers alert, please don't continue if you haven't read the book yet):

1. Teenagers sometimes feel like their parents don't understand them, I get it, and Eliza was no different. I knew her parents didn't get why Eliza was on her phone the whole time. They did know her hobby and her webcomic, but they didn't understand the full length of it, so I could understand why she got upset. It eventually became too much though, and she started to lose my sympathy when the outrage occurred all the time.

For your information: her parents were never mean. They might have had their share of mistakes and errors, but they had tried their best to get to know Eliza. Instead of trying to communicate (even if she failed, at least she had tried), she refused to open up and acted angry all the time. I expected her to feel guilty about it eventually, but nothing of the sort came up, so I've just gotta say what I've gotta say: Eliza's parents deserved a genuine apology, and not the other way around.

2. Sully and Church were two supportive brothers, so when Eliza acted like they were annoying as hell, I started to consider that the problem was in Eliza herself.

3. I hated when Wallace did what he did to Eliza about the webcomic finale. Weeks of not seeing your girlfriend, but no "Are you okay? You haven't come to school for days, and I haven't heard from you either. I'm worried", no "I hate you right now but I need to see that you're still alive", no "I miss you", nada, nada, nada. What we got instead: "I know you're unstable right now but you have to finish your webcomic so I can get a deal with a publisher and pay for my college tuition fee and change my life." Wow. How selfish. How Eliza could forgive him that easily after that was beyond me. I had never rooted for him, and the scene made it even worse.

All three qualms aside, Eliza and Her Monsters was an enjoyable read. The mental illness rep was quite well-written, while the friendship between Eliza, Max, and Emmy was heartwarming. It's just that the character development was a bit of a disappointment, and I was not the biggest fan of both Eliza and Wallace. Will definitely check the author’s real webcomic though. I think the real Monstrous Sea webcomic would be even cooler.

Actual rating: 2.8