Mini Reviews: ‘Once and For All’ And ‘Eliza and Her Monsters’

29/10/2019 Reading, Reviews 4

I’ve been reading even more contemporary YA fiction recently, and have been really enjoying it. I read one of the few Sarah Dessen books I hadn’t yet read, Once and For All, and unsurprisingly I loved it. I also read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, which I had heard so many good things about. Thankfully it lived up to my high expectations!

Check out my reviews below:

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Louna works for her mother’s crazy wedding planning business, and has seen literally every disaster that can possibly befall a wedding, and so it’s probably no wonder she’s so cynical about love. She’s still recovering from her own heart-break when she meets happy-go-lucky Ambrose, a serial dater with a very different outlook on love. But as they grow closer, it seems that perhaps they’ll both have their approach to love changed…

I’ve enjoyed pretty much every book I’ve read by Sarah Dessen, and this one was no exception. In fact, I loved that this book had a combination of classic, old-school Sarah Dessen magic, but also an unexpected twist that made it very different from her other books.

I won’t spoil the twist, if you haven’t read it, but I really liked how different this book was, even with the usual combination of likeable heroine, adorable love interest and a lively cast of background characters. There was definitely some more serious aspects of this book, and some topical issues that come up, but I think it was really well handled.

I also really liked the background of the wedding business, and the absolute circus surrounding it. I loved the trio of Louna and her mother, plus her mother’s business partner William, and how they have codes for different issues, and are all equally jaded about love. I think it was the perfect set-up to throw in accident-prone but optimistic Ambrose, who I adored as a character. You would think a love interest initially described as a ‘serial dater’ would be kind of unlikable, but he was probably one of my favourite Sarah Dessen love interests to date.

This book definitely had me on an emotional rollercoaster, but it was so heart-warming and fun at the same time, I enjoyed every minute of it. If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen but haven’t read this one yet, then I can’t urge you enough to read this book! And if you’ve never read any Sarah Dessen, then this is a great place to start!

Rating: 4/5

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza Mirk is quiet, shy and ‘weird’ in real life, but online she’s practically a celebrity. She’s the creator of the insanely popular web comic Monstrous Sea, and has hordes of devoted fans who anxiously await every chapter, buy merch, and even write fan fiction around the world of the story. However, she never expected her crazy online life to bleed over into her monotonous real life, but it does when one of her biggest fan fiction writers, Wallace Warland starts attending her school. The two become close, and Eliza starts to enjoy real life more…but Wallace has no idea who she is and the secret is about to come out.

I seem to have heard about this book a lot later than everyone else, but literally as soon as I read the blurb I knew I had to read it. This seems like the book I’ve been waiting to read since falling in love with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which I loved for it’s relatable, shy heroine and discussion of fandoms. Eliza and her Monsters had all that, plus a frank look at issues like mental health and grief, as well as insights into creativity.

As someone who has struggled with shyness and feeling as if everyone thinks I’m ‘weird’, I could really relate to Eliza. She isn’t necessarily the most likeable character at times, as she constantly pushes away her family, but I could understand and sympathise with her in a lot of ways, and I loved her dedication to her work and her fans.

I also really liked Wallace as a character, and the way he gradually comes out of his shell with Eliza. You could definitely root for the pair of them as friends and eventually a couple as you’re reading, even if there is a sense of foreboding, as you know that eventually Wallace will find out who she really is.

I also loved how this books examines both what it is to be a fan of something, and the difficulties of being a creator. It’s a book that celebrates fandoms and the communities around them, but also remarks on the insidious dark side that can come with that, and how that can impact on other fans and the creator.

I also loved getting into Eliza’s head throughout the creative process, and the way the book shows both the good side and bad side of being creative. Eliza has something she’s incredibly passionate about and that she has built herself in Monstrous Sea, but it has also come to consume her, so that she neglects real life. Not to mention the way it has become entangled with her self esteem…when she struggles to create Monstrous Sea, she struggles to see her own worth as a person.

Overall, I think this was an incredible book. The characters were complex and likeable, and I felt like I could really relate to them. The book also touched on a lot of topics that interest me, and are close to my heart, so I’m so glad I read it!

Rating: 4.5/5

So have you read either of these books? What did you think?

4 Responses to “Mini Reviews: ‘Once and For All’ And ‘Eliza and Her Monsters’”

  1. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Another post where I’ve actually read the books you’re reviewing! I remember Once and For All wasn’t my favourite Sarah Dessen book. It was good and I did like it but there was something that held me back a little from adoring it as much as others. I do admit it made me cry though because of that twist! It was brutal.

    Eliza and her Monsters, though! I’m always a fan of books where fandom plays a major part so I was always going to adore that book. I’d not read anything from Francesca Zapata before but I’m definitely putting her on my list to read future books.

    • Laura

      That twist was definitely brutal! I think my favourite Sarah Dessen books are still the ones I read years ago in my teens (The Truth About Forever is my all time favourite!), but I did really like Once and For All.
      And I’m so glad you liked Eliza and her Monsters! It was such an amazing book! I haven’t read any other Francesca Zappia books either, but I may give them a go.

  2. Olivia Roach

    I really want to read Eliza and Her Monsters so I am glad to see you really loved that one! I have read her debut novel but none since. I have an on and off relationship with Dessen novels, but Once and For All sounds like it could potentially be good for me.

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