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.
About halfway through this book I realised that I would have to log into the Owl Crate website, look through all of their past boxes and go order every single book they have ever sent out. I’ve only received two of their boxes, but the first book I gave a 10/10, and now this one. I just can’t even.
This is the story of Eliza Mirk and her final year at high school. Eliza is an artist, a true creator. But she also has challenges explaining herself and her art to people. Not just random people: her parents, her brothers, her classmates, fans, everyone. However, she is very good at keeping her two worlds separate. Until she meets a fan that is struggling himself, and then her two worlds start to collide.
The writing is solid, strong, and wildly imperfect — which absolutely works for this story. It helps mould the creation of Eliza’s personality. The inner conflict and internal turmoil is haphazardly broken up with sketches of the fandom within the story (think Carry On by Kath from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl). Sometimes the story is told through images and broken paragraphs, sometimes by a graphic novel page sketch, other times through texts, posts on message boards, email and old fashioned post. These are all interspersed throughout the story, sometimes they break up the middle of a chapter. Some of them are relevant, some of them feel random. But they absolutely add to the feel of the book — they add depth where Eliza cannot verbalise her thoughts or feelings. Reading this felt like being carried into a maelstrom of clutter and mess, but a kind and well-meaning one. You never felt unsafe, just concerned for your hero.
I will say that I didn’t love some of the characters. I was not a fan of Wallace. Don’t get me wrong, he seemed like a nice boy, but I wouldn’t have forgiven him. I am older than Eliza though (like, lots older) and I see things differently now than I did then. At that age I may have agreed with her; I can’t say now, I’ve seen too much life.
This book also made me appreciate some of the authors that I may complain (audibly) about because I have to wait many years for their books. I think I have at least one Olivia Kane in my life, and that frustrates me at times. It also made me cry in places, so it gets extra points for that too.
However, Eliza Mirk is a complex character for any author, let alone an author so young. Her thoughts spill over and through the pages to clutch you and pull you into this story, dragging you into the ocean with her and her kingdom. And, there are monsters in the sea.