REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

eliza and her monsters

“You found me in a constellation.”

I’ve never hidden the fact that I struggle with social anxiety and depression.  I was diagnosed with both at 16, and it’s been a long standing battle since then to learn how to function in society without exacerbating the symptoms.  Anxiety is something that is always with you, never really goes away, and can be triggered by the simplest of things.  Sometimes having to make a phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment will cause me to panic, and I’ll put it off for days and days because I’m truly terrified to talk to someone I don’t know.   Anxiety isn’t rationale.  It’s like a little worm that crawls into your head and continually makes you doubt yourself again and again and again.

In the past, social anxiety was a taboo topic that wasn’t addressed much, especially in literature.  But in recent years, more and more young adult authors have taken the leap into writing characters that suffer from social anxiety.  I’ve read quite a few of them, however, I’ve never felt like anyone really got it right.  That is, until I read Eliza and Her Monsters.

My connection with Eliza was immediate, and I understood her on so many levels.  Eliza is a complete introvert, finding it easier to make friends through social media and the internet than in real life.  And it’s these internet friends who know the real her.  Eliza also suffers with social anxiety, and for me, Zappia truly got it right.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.  The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

Along with the strongly character driven story, Zappia also includes pictures and small snippets of Eliza’s web comic, Sea of Monsters.  I’ve always been a huge graphic novel and comic book fan, so for me, this really added to the story!  Plus, it allowed us to see a part of Eliza where she thrived, and where she could truly be herself without doubt and anxiety creeping in.

Despite my original worries, I loved and adored Eliza and Her Monsters.  I flew through the pages, and was sad when my time with Eliza came to an end.  She is now one of my favorite characters in YA literature, and one of the best representations of a character with social anxiety I’ve ever seen.  Zappia’s writing is strong, flows well, and she tells a story that sticks with you for a long, long time.


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