I don’t often post reviews about YA. I should probably do more. However, my daughter recently brought home the book Eliza and Her Monsters and has gushed over the fact that the main character is just like her. Talk about finding yourself in a book! I was finally able to read it myself and absolutely loved it. (Trigger warning – suicide)
Eliza and Her Monsters is a story that focuses on friendships that are in person vs online. It touches on anxiety, anonymity, parental issues, and suicide, all while shining a light on the world that is fanfiction and online forums. There were times when I was reading that I too could see my child, but there were also moments where the parent’s concern over Eliza’s constant computer use and reliance also came into play.
Eliza Mirk is a high school senior who is invisible at school and who comes alive online. She is also the unknown author of Monstrous Seas, an online comic that has become incredibly successful. Her parents think that it is a hobby, but she is actually making a good chunk of money from it. Her only friends are online and she feels that she doesn’t fit in with her athletically inclined family.
When it turns out that the new guy at school is not only a Monstrous Seas fan, but one who writes fan fiction about it, a friendship starts. Only problem is, Wallace doesn’t talk. For whatever reasons, he only feels comfortable communicating in writing. Both Eliza and Wallace have ghosts in their closets and we know that this can always cause problems. Fortunately, they find common ground and both are able to learn and grow from the other.
The book started out slow, especially when I didn’t have enough time to give to it. But once I started really reading, it grew exponentially. Told through prose, text messages, forum chats, and graphics, Francesca Zappia marvelously captured a subset of high school students and some adults. The situations they found themselves in were incredibly realistic and sparked conversations and deeper thoughts. The characters were flawed and believable and it was one of the rare times that I really wanted to continue on with their journey.
In taking a look at a lot of the reviews on Goodreads, there are a large number of people who completely relate to Eliza and her story. I have never been one to shy away from talking about mental illness and in our post-Covid world, there are more and more kids with social anxiety and depression. Eliza resonated with E in important ways and I am appreciative that authors write characters dealing with realistic problems. I am glad that I also read the book, because as a parent, it really gives me insight into some of what she is going through and how she feels. I highly recommend this book, though probably for 6th grade and up.