Publication: May 30, 2017
Goodreads summary: 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
The summary doesn’t do this book justice. I received this book in my Owlcrate subscription box, so even though I was interested, I wasn’t too excited about it. Now that I have read it, it’s probably one of my favorite books… ever.
The concept of the book reminds me of both Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (which I liked) and Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds (which I loved). Half of the book takes place as if it were online, with parts of the dialogue written in text speak and profile pages, representing the good, bad, and ugly of fandom culture. Pages from Eliza’s webcomic are also integrated throughout this novel. On the outside, this book seems trivial at best, and it had me laughing out loud for more than half of the book.
BUT, HOLY SH*T, THIS BOOK IS SO MUCH DEEPER THAN IT APPEARS TO BE. There’s a twist, and it comes out of nowhere. Then, when Eliza’s identity is revealed, important and darker topics are introduced and explored further. We learn about her anxiety after she suffers a panic attack at school, and the healthy ways to live with it. There’s also a brief mention of suicidal thoughts better explained than Thirteen Reasons Why (the show)*. I did not expect to sob over this book, but here we are.
Another reason why I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this book is because it includes a romance between Eliza and the most popular fanfiction writer, Wallace Warland. I admire that this romance didn’t feel forced. They got together just like your favorite strangers-to-lovers au. After they paired up, they didn’t fight like crazy either, and Zappia portrays a healthy relationship with communication and trust. (Okay, so she lied about LadyConstellation but she had her reasons, also, she was kind of dealing with the whole anxiety thing- it wasn’t right, but it’s forgivable). At the end of the day, this book promotes good friend, familial, and romantic relationships, in addition to taking care of yourself.
To see what I’m reading next, add me on Goodreads. Also, what kind of reader are you, fast and excited like Eliza or slow and methodical like Wallace?
*To be clear, I’m not hating on the show at all. I think it’s well executed from the script to the actors, but it focuses much more on the external factors of Hannah’s suicide than internal. It spreads the message “be kind to everyone” and “you never know what someone else is going through,” which are good, but is a little harder to relate to (at least personally).
ATTN: SPOILERS, PLEASE READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOU READ THIS
Towards the end of the book, I started getting super angry with Wallace for ignoring Eliza because she was so sad an so, so sorry and he wasn’t listening to her or really giving her the chance to apologize and hear her out. Like, Eliza knew she messed up big time and she was paying for it, and the one person who was supposed to understand her didn’t. I wasn’t upset that he was angry or ignoring her (I understand why), but I was upset because he had always been so methodical, taking the time to really see things through and analyzing the whole situation. Then in this situation he reacts standoffish. (I guess that’s partly due to feelings clouding judgement, but still Eliza was hurting). It just seemed really out of character from what was initially presented. Anyways, then he showed up at the right time and said basically everything I was thinking and apologized and that whole scene is very important.