Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters is one of the most original books I've ever read. The multi-talented Francesca Zappia blends graphic panels with prose to tell her story about a young webcomic artist. Eliza Mirk leads a double life: in high school she's a social outcast, but online, she's Lady Constellation, the creator of a popular webcomic. When a charismatic fan of her Monstrous Sea series transfers to Eliza's school, the boundaries start to blur.

Only a handful of online friends know Lady Constellation's true identity, which works well for shy Eliza, who has been bullied at school by former friends. Her invisibility allows her to focus on finishing Monstrous Sea before graduation. Through selling merchandise to fans, Eliza has saved enough money to escape her small town in the Midwest for art college. Even her parents don't realize the level of her success and keep nagging her to be more physically and socially active. Eliza's comfortable anonymity is challenged when a new boy at school shares his adoration for Monstrous Sea and introduces her to other fans in the real world.

This innovative YA novel from 2017 is mostly traditional prose with excerpts from online chats and from Monstrous Sea. Like a visual journal, the narrative also included rough sketches. The twenty or so graphic pages were well integrated into the overall story.

Francesca Zappia did an excellent job of portraying the benefits as well as the risks of an online community. Despite her larger than life story, Eliza's experience felt very true and believable. The online/offline narrative and social anxiety reminded me of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, another favorite young adult novel of mine. Eliza and her Monsters would be an excellent choice for reluctant readers, for kids who feel alienated at school, and for readers of all ages who enjoy graphic novels. It got starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly, and was nominated for Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Young Adult Fiction. Why hasn't Monstrous Sea been published as a companion graphic novel? I'm looking forward to reading more books by this talented author.

Eliza and Her Monsters has given me ideas on how I'd like to present my own YA novel about an American girl in Japan trying to break into manga. As an artist and a writer, I have always enjoyed works that dissolve the line between art and literature. I wish there were more hybrid novels.

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@Barrie Summy


Lucy said...

It sounds like an interesting story. Nice that it provided some inspiration for you as well. Thanks for reviewing.

Barrie said...

Fangirl is one of my favorite YAs, too! With your background, I can see why a hybrid novel would be appealing. Also, I can only imagine how the tension increases as more people learn of Eliza's secret. Eliza and Her Monsters sounds like a terrific read. And I do have a reluctant reader... Thank you for reviewing!

Phyllis Wheeler said...

I've read another hybrid novel recently. It's a great way to tell a story, I think.

Powell River Books said...

I would think this format would be very appealing to young readers. - Margy

cynthia said...

I ADORE the cover! And the book sounds amazing. I had not heard of it so thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think I need to find this one!