Review | Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 30th May 2017 

 

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Eliza and her Monsters is by far, my favourite YA book of 2017. It’s not a spur of the moment decision either – I’ve had a couple days to sit on it and yes, as of June 2017, it’s my favourite 2017 book.

Eliza is the anonymous creator of the world-famous webcomic, Monstrous Sea. For the last 3 years she has, without fail, uploaded new additions to the comic every Friday. She has constantly stressed how consistency and her top-quality work (she would never upload something that she isn’t 100% happy with) is what her fans deserve. This is a sentiment that as a book blogger, I can relate to. Back when I was more active on Shiirleyy’s Bookshelf I was pushing myself to finish at least several books a week so that I would have at least 2-3 reviews up every week. I didn’t want to disappoint the publishers who kindly sent me books, the same way Eliza never wanted to disappoint her fans. I really admire Eliza for singlehandedly creating this virtual empire that stemmed from her passion for drawing. She is a fighter, a fantastic main character but not without her flaws. I felt that Eliza was so absorbed in her online life that she neglected her family, especially her two brothers. Eliza admitted that she didn’t particularly care about her brothers’ games, which was extremely disheartening since they were siblings and her brothers cared deeply for her and knew everything about her internet fame. I am however, happy with how Eliza matured as an older sister towards the end 🙂 

I liked the representation of Eliza’s parents; her parents always thought this Monstrous Sea webcomic was simply a hobby and were supportive but never truly understood the extent of their daughter’s popularity and talent. I remember an interview I read featuring one of Australia’s most famous fashion icons, Margaret Zhang where she shared that even after almost half a decade, her parents were not aware of what she did. I think the representation of Eliza’s parents was rather accurate and while sometimes I wanted to yell at them for not making the effort to open their eyes and see how talented and successful their daughter is, I agreed with their constant nagging for Eliza to leave her room. 

The illustrations were absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to buy myself a copy to stare at all day! Whether you’re a teenager, or an adult, I strongly recommend picking this up. I went through a roller coaster of emotions in the second half of the book. I was on the verge of tears towards the end because it was so emotionally draining and my heart ached for both Eliza and Wallace – who, by the way is an absolute sweetheart!! Eliza and her Monsters sends a strong message of hope and to pursue your passion. Don’t waste your life doing things you loathe, make the most of your life!

 

5 STARS

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli 

Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 11th April, 2017  

 

 Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

 Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.


 There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited 

I’ve discovered that with time and age, my reading preferences have changed. I’m certain 16 year old me would have swooned, gushed and raved endlessly about how cute The Upside of Unrequited is and talked excessively about how adorably slow and perfect the romance between the Molly and Reid is. Unfortunately, 22 year old me thought the whole push and pull between the two was too cute for my liking – I think I can only tolerate small doses of cuteness before I go “Yeah, nah”, onto the next book.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about The Upside of Unrequited, and then I’ll address the main issue I had with it. I think most people would disagree with

A relatable main character 

The Upside of Unrequited had the ingredients for the perfect YA book. In particular, I found Molly’s actions and the situations she found herself in very relatable. Molly has had 20-something crushes in the past and none of them moved past the ‘crush’ stage because she never communicated her feelings in fear of rejection. Yeah, guess what – same here. The whole time I was thinking “wow….this is so me”. Some other examples of some things I do that I didn’t think anyone else did until I read this book.

“I google the number, but Google doesn’t know, and I feel dumb asking who it is. So I ignore it. “

So yes, when I receive a random call and he/she doesn’t leave a voicemail, or when I receive a random text from someone I always google the number first and then decide whether or not to call back. Usually when they don’t leave a voicemail, I ignore the number.

“It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation.”

This one is so applicable to me when I meet people I don’t ‘connect’ with. I mean, I can keep a conversation going during our first meeting – no worries – but if we randomly bump into each other again, say the next day then sorry, but what the heck am I suppose to talk to you about?! All obvious topics of conversation have been exhausted! Hhahahahah obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when I read the quote above, I just thought of situations in the past where I had nothing to say to someone I’d just bumped into.

Diversity

I’ve been on and off on twitter over the last few years so sometimes I miss out on important bookish news and trends. Sometime last year/ this year ‘Diversity’ became a top trending topic between readers, bloggers, authors and publishers. From reading a couple of tweets it seems the gist of it was readers wanted more diversity in books. Well, turns out, you asked and Becky Albertalli delivered.

Now, I’m going to say something that may not be well received since after reading a few reviews and general comments on Twitter, I’ve concluded that my feelings belong in the minority. While I appreciate Albertalli’s attempt at creating a world with all types of diverse characters, the impression I got was more of a ‘diversity dump’ or a shopping list of diverse characters. I personally felt it was a desperate attempt to incorporate all these diverse characters into one book to appeal to readers to the point that the characters didn’t feel realistic anymore. They felt like chess pieces brought in for the sole purpose of writing a book about diversity; there was no substance or depth to any of the characters beyond their labels. I remember at least one character was Jewish, and others had different skin colours, religion, sexuality but that was it. The terms were thrown around and then the story went back to the cute interactions between Molly and Reid.

I was slightly annoyed at Albertalli’s representation of Mina. The first time I realized she was Asian I thought “Oh yay! An Asian character, I like this book already!” Then after a few chapters I got the feeling that Albertalli was desperate to reiterate to the readers that Mina‘s A PERSON OF COLOUR, that it felt like she was shoving this fact in my face. Cassie was constantly saying how Mina is “Korean-American” and the whole time I just imagined Mina with a banner above her head with the words LOOK AT ME. IM KOREAN-AMERICAN. A DIVERSE CHARACTER.

So my point is I like books where the author doesn’t tell me once, twice, or five thousand times that someone is pansexual, or Asian or Jewish. Please do your research and show me this information. Having said all that, The Upside Of Unrequited wasn’t bad – it was a quick read and I definitely enjoyed it but I probably won’t be coming back for more.