Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Eliza and Her Monsters

In the season of Star Wars, reading a book that touched on elements of fan culture was perfection. It was just right for distracting from The Last Jedi spoilers.

(Now I’ve seen the movie, and avoiding spoilers made the first viewing all the more amazing…it’s my favorite Star Wars of all time. And since it is receiving such a divided fan reaction, I’ll probably stray from the book-focused norm soon and write a blog post with my hot takes on the movie. But this is enough about Star Wars for now.)

Star Wars distraction need aside, Eliza and Her Monsters put to words a story about fandom (and beyond) from a wholly unique perspective I’ve never read: that of the creator’s experience in it all.

The Summary

Eliza is an introverted, indoorsy, unsocial teen. She also happens to be the anonymous author of one of the most famous online web comics in existance. Her personal and online life flip upside down when she meets one of her biggest fans, Wallace, in person. And no, her new friend doesn’t know who she is.

The Analysis

Nerd culture…fandom…is mainstream in the age of Internet. Monstrous Seas is a stand-in for any fandom you enjoy, whether you prefer Star Wars, Harry Potter, or something else. The depiction of fandom in Eliza and Her Monsters is wholly realistic. There’s online best friends, fanfiction writing, cosplay and, worst of all, dangerous, rabid fans who give fandom a bad name.

As a person deep into fandom myself (namely, I adore Star Wars, but past obsessions include Once Upon a Time, Doctor Who, The Hunger Games and more), I couldn’t help but feel a deep connection to the heavy, fandom-focused story.

But beyond that, the book is so much more.

Eliza and Her Monsters is a case study on parents acting wrongly in the name of misguided pride, as well as a showcase on how tough it can be for parents to understand you in the first place. Eliza and Her Monsters shows the difficulty behind creation, the struggle with motivation and inspiration. Eliza and Her Monsters shows the deep reaching impacts of depression and the after-effects of suicide. And all of this feels deeply, emotionally realistic and effective.

It tells an effective story about mental health without the need to be grim throughout (though certainly, some aspects of the book are grim).

It is unbelievable to me that, in one year, two authors could reach me with such effective tales of mental health, each mixed in with fandom and other teenish tropes that I can’t help but adore and appreciate, but here I am. First Turtles All the Way Down, and now this.

My genre of choice may be fantasy, but perhaps it is time to read more contemporary. I’m continually surprised and pulled in by my few YA contemporary selections. If you have any suggestions for what I should read next, please share in the comments! I’d love a few more excellent contemporaries to shake up my reading patterns.

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