There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt. The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.
I’ve been reading some heavy stuff lately, and I wanted a break from stories about murdered children. I came across Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, and I remembered reading a very positive review about it from Thrice Read. It’s marketed as a YA teen romance, so it’s safe to say I am not a member of the book’s target audience. But what the hell, I decided to give it a shot.
I’m glad I did.
The old adage of not judging a book by its cover is apt in this case. Eliza and Her Monsters is not really a romance! Or at least the romantic relationship is not the central *point* of the novel; it’s about the main character’s relationship with herself. The book explores mental health issues, the nature of fandom, the responsibility of artists (to their fans, to their work, and to themselves), the dynamics of parent-child communication, different perspectives on online interactions and friendships, and general pitfalls of the online world. This complicated subject matter is handled realistically and with nuance. This book would make a great addition to any book club that included YA works in their reading lists.
There IS a romantic plot in the book, though. The basic premise of it (as more-or-less described on the book jacket) is:
She’s the anonymous creator of a wildly popular webcomic. He’s the most well-known fan-fiction writer of that webcomic. They meet, and he thinks she’s just another fan of the webcomic. Will she reveal the truth? What will happen if she does?
While there are a ton of other romantic comedies (or romantic subplots) that involve some sort of falsehood or secret, they generally involve someone pretending to be someone they are not, pretending to have traits they do not have, or hiding a damaging secret. This story does not rely on those usual tropes to drive the dramatic tension.
The characters in this book pop off the page. They are not caricatures or stereotypes, and all of their actions and choices make sense in accordance with their previous character-development.
The author’s writing style is clear, crisp, and easy-to-read. The book is 385 pages, and I knocked it out in a day. The book utilizes a first-person point-of-view, interspersed with texts, forum messages, and illustrated excerpts from the webcomic created by the main character. All of these serve to immerse the reader more deeply into the experiences and head-space of the protagonist.
There are monsters in the sea.
Rating: 5 stars