Fandom Done Right: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she 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.

Source: GoodReads

I loved this book.

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I have read many books about fandoms this year, I think it’s almost a sub genre in YA contemporary.  Lots of them have been good.  Lots have been mediocre.  And some of downright pandered to their audience.  With Eliza and Her Monsters I think I found one of these books that’s actually scary identifiable.

Though, I do not have near the anxiety issues Eliza has, I see a lot my teen self in her and I have had panic attacks before.  I also can relate to her as an introvert.

Extroverts, like Eliza’s parents, always have a hard time realizing why introverts like being by themselves.  Why we have to have that alone time.  Why it’s so crucial that an introvert has a people free day and be a RAT (rude antisocial troglodyte).

Yeah, I know.

Introvert whining.  But when you are constantly told that parties are fine and find yourself only looking at your watch the entire time wanting to know when you can go home and binge watch something on Netflixs…

Okay, end of introvert pity party.

The point, I’m trying to make-digressions aside is this book is so relatable.  It also goes into the pitfalls of how one can get absorbed in fandom in an almost unhealthy way.  And honestly reading this sort of scared me because I could see shades of myself in Eliza and while I loved her, that isn’t exactly a good thing.

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Okay, it was actually a great thing it made me feel for the character and made her journey seem even more real, but it also scared me on some level that some of the darker moments of this characters journey…well, I could see it happening to me if I were in her shoes.

The romance in this book was delightful.  I liked both Wallace and Eliza.  They both had this awkwardly cute quality about them.  I did get annoyed with Wallace towards the end of the book when he pressured Eliza to finish her comic.  His reaction, however, as douchey as it might’ve seemed wasn’t really that unrealistic.  In fact, had he not acted the way he did I probably would be calling the book out for not being realistic.

One of my biggest issues with Fangirl was that the fan fiction that Cath wrote was a very obvious watered down Harry Potter fan fic (the fact that, that got its own spinoff is another story for another day) the fandom in Eliza and her Monsters actually is its own thing and it sounds pretty cool.

Really, I wouldn’t mind reading a spinoff of Eliza’s story. which seemed to be more than Harry/Draco fan shipping.

Just saying.

I think what drove me into liking this book was that it was relatable.  It had its moments of darkness, but it also had its moments of hope.  If you want a good book about fandom, I highly recommend you check this contemporary out.

Overall Rating: An A

 

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Reality Bites: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

 

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Source: GoodReads

I have a lot of nice things to say about this book.  For one thing, I felt like it dealt with mental illness on a level that isn’t often done in YA.

There’s often a talk about diversity in YA, but I often think that focus on diversity on race, culture,  and sexual orientation and has neglect other types of diversity-i.e. characters that suffer from mental or physical adversity.  Sure, there are a few books that do look at different obstacles that a character might suffer, but as a whole there aren’t a lot books focusing on physical of mental impairments which is a shame because a lot of people do suffer from various impairments.

Paranoid schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is horrifying and fascinating.   To not have a grip on reality is a terrifying and often some of the things that people who suffer from the disease perceive can be puzzling  if not horrifying.

People often have a distorted view of what suffers of schizophrenia are like, and I liked how relatable Alex was in this book.  She could’ve been anyone’s sister.  Anyone’s friend.  She didn’t spend the entire book discussing her disease, but it was a part of her life.  Zappia made the reader see how the delusions that Alex occasionally sees and hears affects her life.

That was the best part of the novel.

Sometimes I did feel like the disease might’ve been going into cliche territory, but then Zappia would do a twist that would surprise me.  I think one thing that I wanted to see, but we didn’t see in this book was Alex’s relationship with her shrink.

Like them or not, a person suffering from a psychiatric disorder is going to have some sort of relationship with their mental health professional.  While I didn’t expect Zappia to write every session between Alex and Leeann, I wanted some clue into what was going on in those therapy sessions.

I thought like I was missing time because those sections weren’t put in the book.

To be honest, while the first third to first half of the book was compellingly readable, the book’s pacing got odd as the book progressed. At times I almost felt like there was no clear direction that the story was trying to go towards.  Was it trying to be like Veronica Mars or something?  That mystery with the scoreboard and the principal really didn’t work for me.

And then there was the love story in the book.  At it’s core, it was the strongest thing about the book.  I loved how this relationship isn’t instant and there are so many layers to both Alex and Miles in the book.  Both characters have their own quirks and demons to deal with and both of them are devastating characters.

Although it had flaws, I really did enjoy Made You Up, I liked that it looked at how a character lived with mental illness.  Although, some of the pacing was messed up.  I will am definitely recommending this one.

Overall Rating: A very solid B.