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Eliza and Her Monsters
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Book Discussions - 2018 > Final Thoughts - August

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Leander Public Library | 151 comments Mod
The featured book for August 2018 was Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. There are major spoilers ahead in this thread, so beware!

Most of you already know this by now, but we'd love to hear any of your thoughts on this book -- observations, opinions, and your own questions, especially! And, as always, we're posting some discussion questions, but don't feel like you are required to answer them. We're only offering them for those of you that struggle (like some of us!) to start book discussions.

This month's discussion questions are borrowed from The Library Ladies, as well as a couple written by one of our staff members.

1. What did you think of Eliza as a main character? Did you find her to be relatable and/or likable?

2. Have you ever had a friend you met online, or know solely from online interaction? What do you think about the claim that online friends aren’t “real” friends?

3. Eliza has a complex relationship with the fans of her work. What do you think an artist owes their fans when it comes to content production, or characterization? Do they owe their fans anything at all?

4. Eliza has a contentious relationship with her parents. What do you think of how they all interacted with each other? What could they have done differently?

5. Have you ever followed an online work that is posted occasionally like “Monstrous Sea”? What was it?

6. Zappia’s debut novel, Made You Up, was published in 2015. Did you read that book? If you did, do you think there are any similarities between Made You Up and Eliza and Her Monsters?

7. How did you feel about the representation of mental health within the novel? Did you think it was realistic? Did you learn anything about it? Do you think that this book does a good job of showing the mindset of someone with a mental disorder?

We're looking forward to what you lovely readers have to say!


message 2: by Christine (last edited Aug 20, 2018 06:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Christine | 127 comments 1) I thought Eliza was a boring main character and so it took me a while to get into this book. But I did relate to her anxiety and shyness.

2) Last summer, I attended a conference. Before the conference, there was a Facebook group set up for us to connect and get to know each other. I enjoyed "meeting" other conference attendees before the event. It was odd to go to the event feeling like I already knew some of them because we had conversations online. While I personally would not consider my relationship with these women or any other person I met online to be one of my friends, I understand why some people do. For example, my father has coworkers from all around the world. He talks to or instant messages them all day long. I think in our current technological age, online friends can be "real" friends. However, I do not think that all of someone's friends should be online friends, as all of Eliza's friends seemed to be, because that is isolating.

3) I struggled with this question and am interested to hear other people's thoughts. I do not think that an artist owes their fans anything in terms of characterization. I think an artist should strive to have a quality product. In the case of Eliza's favorite artist, Olivia Kane, this meant not finishing the book series because it would be of lower content quality.

5) I started following a story that an author I enjoy was writing on Wattpad. I only read one or two of her story updates, but did not stick with it.

6) I have not read Made You Up. I heard that the narrator is unreliable, which I am not a fan of. I am interested to see how the author depicts mental health in her debut though.


Kristen | 142 comments I liked Eliza and Her Monsters quite a bit. Fandom-related books are taking the (young adult) world by storm, but this one mixes it with mental health, a little bit of romance, and more.

2. Have you ever had a friend you met online, or know solely from online interaction? What do you think about the claim that online friends aren’t “real” friends?
In this day and age, I feel like it's impossible to say that no one, at least in the younger generations, has ever not had an online friend. I myself have had plenty; through various MMOs to fanfiction sites to ones like Goodreads, we have the capability to talk to people that we never would have been able to talk to before. Calling them "friends" isn't unrealistic, either, because a friend, by definition, is another person who you have something in common with, and whom you've created a bond with.

However, like Christine said, I don't think it's very healthy to have online friends be your only ones. Humans are social creatures, and as technology continues its rapid change we'll be able to speak to people far and wide, but it's important to have those friends you can physically see and speak to.

3. Eliza has a complex relationship with the fans of her work. What do you think an artist owes their fans when it comes to content production, or characterization? Do they owe their fans anything at all?
I think this is such an interesting point of discussion. It applies not only to artists, but to writers, actors, musicians, and everyone who creates entertainment for others.

As an aspiring writer myself, I realize that fans are important, as they are to any creator of any medium. Fans are the people that will give you feedback, will give you encouragement, and will invest their time and, sometimes, their hearts, in your work. That, I think, is the most important part for a creator; to have someone who loves their work so wholly.

But at the same time, I cringe to think that fans think creators owe them anything. I like to think that a work of art is a medium of expression for the creator, and for someone to demand from the creator is to cheapen the value of what they've already created. Of course, as a fan of several different things myself, I know it sucks when your favorite author cancels a book, or an actor drops a movie, or a musician leaves the band. But I hardly think I'm owed anything by them; they've given their gift freely, and a fan chooses to give it, and the creator, their love.

6. Zappia’s debut novel, Made You Up, was published in 2015. Did you read that book? If you did, do you think there are any similarities between Made You Up and Eliza and Her Monsters?
I have not read Made You Up, but I totally intend to. I'm impressed with Eliza and Her Monsters and I think I'll be on the lookout for future books by Francesca Zappia.

7. How did you feel about the representation of mental health within the novel? Did you think it was realistic? Did you learn anything about it? Do you think that this book does a good job of showing the mindset of someone with a mental disorder?
Ohmygosh, I thought it was really good. I can be a stickler about mental health rep, partially because I feel like it needs to be true, but also because I went to college for psychology and that's what I find not only interesting, but important. Eliza's anxiety and depression read as really true to me, though, as always, I want everyone to know that one person's symptoms aren't like another's. Mental health can be a slippery slope for some, and the same disorders have varying symptoms. While Eliza read as true, it doesn't mean that she's the picture of anxiety/depression.


Elvia Palacios (elle1221) | 16 comments 1. What did you think of Eliza as a main character? Did you find her to be relatable and/or likable?

I can't say that I found Eliza relatable since I've never really struggled with social anxiety. In high school, I was one of those girls that joined a million after school clubs just to delay going. Anyway, I did end up liking Eliza even though she did come off as a pretty bland character at first since *everything* about her was Monstrous Sea or her anxiety or (later) Wallace. She later showed growth and some courage towards facing her inner demons, and by the end of the book I was happy to see the Eliza beneath all of the anxiety or the idea that her value was directly tied to her web comic.



3. Eliza has a complex relationship with the fans of her work. What do you think an artist owes their fans when it comes to content production, or characterization? Do they owe their fans anything at all?

No, I don't think an artist owes anything to their fans... Unless your on Patreon and pay a monthly fee for a perk here or there for your favorite content creator, that can blur the lines just a little. But usually the artist on Patreon will explicitly state what the reward is for different tiers of monetary support.

4. Eliza has a contentious relationship with her parents. What do you think of how they all interacted with each other? What could they have done differently?

There was definitely a lot of disconnect between Eliza and her parents. The disconnect was definitely not helped by how different Eliza's parents were from Eliza herself; in the family, Eliza was definitely the black sheep who didn't care for sports or outdoorsy activities. About the only common ground they seemed to have was that they shared DNA with each other and the same house.

I think what the parents could have worked on was getting to know their daughter as herself, instead of imposing their likes and ideas of fun onto Eliza and forcing her to join in on activities she didn't have any interest in. And also taking her "hobby" a lot more seriously by working harder to understand what and why exactly their daughter is working on this web comic all the time.

For all that Eliza seemed to feel alienated from her family, I came away from this book of the opinion that the alienation was self imposed. Eliza was was not interested in being part of the family or trying to articulate her feelings to them so that they could meet her from a place of understanding. This barrier she put up between herself and her parents hardly helped their relationship, but I never got the feeling that she really wanted a deeper relationship with them in the first place. Soooo yea, you can't fix what you really don't care about fixing.


Here's my own question to the group:

In your opinion, what is the best way to approach/support a loved one who seems to be suffering through depression and/or anxiety? Or any other mental health issue?


Kristen | 142 comments Elvia wrote: "In your opinion, what is the best way to approach/support a loved one who seems to be suffering through depression and/or anxiety? Or any other mental health issue?
"


I come from a psychology background, and I've learned that all mental health disorders are different. People with the same diagnosis can have different symptoms, which is why diagnosing and treatment is so difficult and the ability to do so only given to those with graduate-level collegiate degrees.

Family support is really important in the recovery of a mental illness; people always need help, whether they realize this or not. But mental health can't be put into a single box; a diagnosis can't be put in a single box, so how can family and friends give their support?

There are a few different ways people can support their loved ones, things like trying to be understanding and not brushing off the person's issues, no matter how ridiculous they seem.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a website that talks a little bit about the treatment, support options, and more.


Christine | 127 comments Kristen wrote: "I liked Eliza and Her Monsters quite a bit. Fandom-related books are taking the (young adult) world by storm, but this one mixes it with mental health, a little bit of romance, and ..."

Kristen, I love your answer to the last question. I didn’t answer the question because I had trouble articulating my response and loved how you were able to. I have read books that felt unauthentic in their representation of mental health or seemed to use the character’s mental health disorder as the only aspect of their character. I appreciated how Eliza’s anxiety was just one aspect of her being.


Christine | 127 comments As Kristen mentioned, fandom-related books are popular among young adult readers. My question for the group: What are some other fandom-themed young books you would recommend? I recently read Tash Hearts Tolstoy and enjoyed it. One thing I liked about it was that, like Eliza and Her Monsters, it explores deeper issues instead of being just a fluffy fandom book.


Elvia Palacios (elle1221) | 16 comments Kristen has an awesome way of articulating her comments, thats fo' sho! <3

my recommendation for fandom themed YA is How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C Lillis. I don't recall it delving into mental health issues. It was a fun, fluffy romantic romp.


Kristen | 142 comments Aww, shucks! You guys are making me blush! :P

Christine wrote: "What are some other fandom-themed young books you would recommend?"

I have a shelf for fandom-related books, but there's not many on it (like, seven, I think?) While the topic is super popular in the genre, I've struggled with the majority of the fandom-books I've read. Eliza and Her Monsters is my highest rated to date, but I also liked Geekerella, too.

However, if you want books that maybe aren't fandom-themed but do focus on mental health, I have an entire shelf dedicated to that.


message 10: by Christine (last edited Oct 16, 2020 01:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Christine | 127 comments What are some other fandom-themed young adult books you would recommend?

Earlier this year, I read Queens of Geek, which I highly recommend. It takes place at a fandom convention and includes #ownvoices mental health representation for anxiety.


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