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review 2017-06-02 23:58
Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia | READ THIS NOW!

This past Tuesday, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia was released into the world, and you all need to get a copy. Now.

I was an Eliza beta reader about a year and a half ago, and I finished reading my hardback yesterday. All the praise that I had already given the beta version? Oh, wow. Magnify that by a hundred. This book is fantastic. Here are my 5 reasons for why you need NEED to read it.

 


1) Fantastic Characters--

It's a well known fact that Chessie makes amazing, multi-layered characters, the type to delight fans of all ages (cc: Made You Up). Her characters feel flesh and blood. They make you want to cry and scream, and you get frustrated on their behalf. Chessie's attention to detail makes her characters come alive, with their own little habits and phrases. And with such fantastic characters, you're guaranteed to be engaged in the story, even if you don't always agree with what the characters do.

Eliza and Her Monsters - Francesca Zappia
2) Breaking Gender Norms--

The romantic interest in this book is a hulk, former football player and now fanfiction writer and a selective mute, with a soft voice. The main character is a girl with greasy hair and social anxiety, and she's this super popular creator of a webcomic. Society tends to portray female creators as being Nice, Polite Women - women need to comprise, to smile more often, etc. Here, we have another story to rival that. And many of the side characters also break gender norms. I don't know about you, but I'm very pleased to have a story where the characters aren't in these flat cardboard boxes of what we expect (e.g., alpha male). This also makes the characters feel more real to me.

3) The Unique Formatting--

You can look at several of the Goodreads reviews that mention the photos - here, for instance. Or just at look at the EpicReads post of the first two chapters. You can see the inclusion of the Monstrous Sea webcomic pages, and the prose transcription beneath. You can see private messages between the characters - the moderators of the webcomic and Eliza, the romantic interest and Eliza. You can see forum interactions and forum profiles. Most of the YA books out right now don't have this amount of layering within their stories. Horror YA sometimes includes pictures, and other fandom related books might have some stories, some fanfiction--not to this extent, not to this level of metaness. See point below.

4) Unlike Anything Else You've Read--

This book has been compared to Fangirl and Afterworlds and Nimona, because every book needs to be compared to something, so you have an idea of its marketing. It's a fact of life that you build on schemas that people already have of the world. But this book is unlike anything else that you've read. You only get Cath's fanfiction in Fangirl, some of the story from the main character in Afterworlds. Nimona started off as a comic. None of these is quite the same as Eliza and Her Monsters. Here, you get the main character's creation and see how she interacts with her fans, and you see how fanfic writers interact with the creator and the fandom. You also get to hear about a series of books that she loves, too. Chessie has posted this online - the Children of Hypnos story. The main character has a drive to create after the fandom that she loves no longer exists. You have access to that story too. There's this amazing level of metaness in this story that ties so well into the themes of creation, fandoms, etc. I repeat: unlike anything else you've read.

5) So Easy to Relate to--

If you're reading this book, there is a good likelihood that you will relate to SOMETHING in this book. Whether it's the main character's social anxiety, the need to create, the desire to interact with the fandom, or just loving how the fandom interacts-- there is something for everyone. And you know that Chessie has interacted with or been a part of fandoms, because it shows in her writing. It shows in how fandoms a portrayed. Marieke Nijkamp wrote the blurb, "A love letter to fandom, friendship, and the stories that shape us, Eliza and Her Monsters is absolutely magical." Yes, yes, yes. A love letter to fandom and friendship and stories. Yes. 100% true.

READ THIS BOOK!

PS - This wonderful novel got a starred review from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal.

PPS - Here is my original pre-review: I read a manuscript of this book about one year ago to date. If you like Made You Up, you will most certainly love Eliza! Chessie brings back her trademark endearing humor in another wonderful mix of adorable romance, quirky characters, and multilayered plotting (plus the cool formatting here, which is typically reserved for YA horror, but hey, Eliza is just that awesome). I would also recommend this book to fans of Fangirl and Afterworlds.

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review 2016-08-07 17:12
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Made You Up - Francesca Zappia

This was a pretty great book for me to read since Made You Up revolves around our main character, Alex, is schizophrenic. I learned about schizophrenia last semester, so it was interesting to see how having this mental illness would play out in today’s setting.

This book was good, but I did start getting a little bored about a while in. This was mostly because I kind predicted some of the things that were going to happen and already knew that some things were a bit too off about our story.

But, eh… I’d recommend reading this to people who don’t really know anything about schizophrenia! It was a pretty decent read!

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-04-27 00:00
Made You Up
Made You Up - Francesca Zappia “Sometimes I think people take reality for granted.”

I’m still looking for what I wanted from We’ll Never Be Apart (my review). This got a little closer, but we're still a long way gone.

Review
While I was reading it and not thinking too hard, this book wasn't so bad. I sped through it because I wanted to get to the good parts, but once again, I felt like the good parts never quite arrived.

I originally gave this book three stars; I bumped it down to two. The more I thought about it, the more things bugged me.

I won’t get into the wildly inaccurate portrayal of schizophrenia; Clementine’s review goes into some detail, and a perusal of one-star reviews will get you the gist. I don’t have a background in psychology and I don’t have any up close and personal experience with schizophrenia. Even so, I could tell something was way off – especially when just being around the love interest soothed her symptoms.

This idea that if you love a sick person enough, and they love you enough, they’ll just get better is, frankly, insulting. You can’t love someone so much you cure their cancer. You can’t love someone so much you cure their schizophrenia.

(I had the same problem with Made You Up. Why is it always a boy and a cure, instead of your own self and learning to live with the reality of the situation and cope the best you can?)

I wish I knew more about Charlemagne. That could’ve been the whole plot, right there. At least, unlike Made You Up, it’s (sort of) explained how Alexandra “sees” her interacting with people – but it’s a mystery why her parents not only played along with this delusion/hallucination (it’s both/neither) but apparently encouraged it, setting a place for her at the table and buying her Christmas presents long after she died. I… what?

Oh, and the mom’s relationship with the therapist, and the therapist’s relationship with Alexandra? Woah. I saw a therapist for six(ish) years. My mother was sometimes involved with my treatment; probably with a schizophrenic patient, you’d need more family involvement for a minor.

Therapists are not your enemy. If you don’t like your particular therapist, hopefully you can find a new one. If your meds aren’t working, talk to your psychiatrist and adjust the dose or change the prescription. This is such a dangerous cliché. I didn’t see a therapist when I needed one (financial reasons) and, well, it almost ruined my life. See a therapist, kids!

As for the rest ... Well, I originally left it out of my review because it was pretty forgettable. There were too many threads and none of them made any sense. Like Miles's mom. She's been stuck in a psychiatric hospital for eight years without her consent, and not having committed any crime, because her husband says she's suicidal? What is this, 1950? Or Miles himself, struggling to readjust after living abroad. That could all be very interesting, but it just wasn't. Or the McCoy and Celia subplot. Any of these things could have been a good book in their own right, but crammed into a single story and not fleshed out they just floundered. Less is more.

And why is the whole school crazy? It seemed like high school on a TV show, not real high school. At first I thought it was part of Alex's illness, but apparently not.

Judging a Book by Its Cover
I love the design for this book. It’s what originally caught my eye before I got on this “mentally ill unreliable narrator” kick I’m in. It’s visually arresting, and we’ve got Alex’s red hair. I think a lobster would have been more intriguing, though.
It loses points for the flagrant misuse of Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song.”

tl;dr
Quick read, but I wanted more. Didn’t care much about the characters and the one I liked best turned out to be a hallucination all along. Once again, the interesting bits about what’s real or not get lost under a teenage love story, and the reality of mental illness is ignored in favor of stereotypes and what’s cool.
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review 2016-02-23 00:00
Made You Up
Made You Up - Francesca Zappia I really enjoyed this novel (minus the almost-sex scene between the two mains) and really appreciated that the main character was not treated like a villain for her mental illness (except for a very realistic scene where she is outed by a classmate and I started crying because it was very similar to something I went through in high school).

I was extremely skeptical about this book when I read that the author did not personally experience paranoid schizophrenia (either firsthand or secondhand), but the novel treats this so well enough that I wasn't upset or finding myself annoyed with the book.

This book is heartbreaking at times, but a really great read. Anyone with an interest in how mental illness/mental health is represented in young adult fiction should give this book a read.
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url 2015-12-16 17:40
My Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards Nominations

Hello! Did you know that the nominations for the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards are happening NOW until this Friday, December 18th? Normally, I must admit, I don't pay much attention to book awards and lists (aside from Printz/NBA/Morris), but the Book Shimmy Awards are 100% determined by the community. We have agency in what we are going to be voting for, and I hope that you'll join me in nominating your favorites! (I hope that we have some common favorites as well...)

 
My goal in this was to nominate every one of my favorite books published in 2015 at least once. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I tried my best, and even if I liked some books more than others, I didn't want to nominate something more than once. So, here we go!
 
 
Best of Shelf
Award given to the best overall book published in 2015.

 
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. This was a really hard book to choose. BEST OVERALL BOOK??! I don't about you, but I like books for very different reasons. Some have excellent romances. Some have beautiful prose. Some have action-packed plots. Maybe I was influenced bythe recently released excerpt of The Winner's Kiss, but the Winner's trilogy reminds me of Kristin Cashore's books, which definitely make my favorite books of all time list. Not one scene is ever unnecessary in The Winner's Trilogy. Masterful plotting, masterful characterization... and how many times have I paused, wondering whether Kestrel and Arin will ever come to an accord of their own making? THAT EXCERPT! I reviewed The Winner's Crime, encouraged people to pre-order the novel, and basically said whenever I could how awesome the book is.

The Pagemaster
Award given to favorite YA author of the year. (Author must have published a book in 2015.)

Nova Ren Suma. At first, I was going to nominate Samantha Shannon, but her books aren't technically considered YA. And then I looked at my list, saw The Walls Around Us and remembered a blog post I'd read from Nova Ren Suma about the surprises she'd had as an author. As someone who is trying to navigate different careers and expectations of life, I really resonated with that post. Nova's dedication in the Walls Around Us is also perfect for the YA community. She seems like an incredibly sweet author, and The Walls Around Us, as I said in my review andanother post, is like a tribute to girls in all our complexity. Yes to Nova Ren Suma.

New Kid of the Shelf
Award for best debut YA author of 2015.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. In some sense, this isn't fair of me because Chessie and I are good friends, but I really did enjoy Made You Up. I interviewed Chessie on this blog when her deal had recently been announced and when her book was soon to be released. I reviewed Made You Up and encouraged you all to pre-order the book when you could, because it was one of theawesome 2015 books that I'd read. I gave away an annotated ARC of Made You Up. There are only so many ways that someone can say this is an amazing debut novel and Francesca Zappia is an amazing author to watch.

Cover Lust Award
Award given to the YA book with the most gorgeous cover design.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. Made You Up has made Bustle's list for best YA book coversas well as the beautiful covers list from Epic Reads and some categories in the viewer-votedYoung Adult Book Cover Awards. It's actually a cover that also represents aspects of the book well. If I'm not mistaken, the eyes of a pivotal character in the book are described as something like, taking a bunch of blue crayons and melting them together. The umbrella is a great representation of the main character trying to shield herself from things beyond her control. Plus, the emphasis on her red hair, which plays its own role, and the fact that she's illustrated allows you to picture her however you want. Win, Greenwillow Designer. Win.

We Need Diverse Books Award
Award given to the best YA book of 2015 that explores the diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. The interesting thing is, when I saw this award, my first thought was towards the excellent selection of diverse contemporary novels that I'd read, like Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. But contemporary generally seems to be where most diverse novels are; fantasy has a serious problem when it comes to including diversity because of some fallacious arguments. I enjoyed and reviewed Serpentine, and included Skybright in various lists about brave heroines. At its core, Serpentine is discussing what it means to be Other; with our patriarchal society marginalizing the voices of those who fit the aforementioned diverse label, well, Serpentine also seemed perfect for this category. Plus, y'know, the exploration of Chinese folklore, and a non Western-centric fantasy: that definitely fits the We Need Diverse Books Award criteria, no?

The Mental Health Matters Award
Award for the best book that shines a light on mental health.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. I considered adding Made You Up here as well, but I know that Francesca Zappia is planning on releasing books not focused on mental health, whereas all of Stephanie Kuehn's novels thus far have been about exploring mental health issues. I've reviewed and enjoyed Delicate Monsters, Complicit, and Charm and Strange. Basically, Stephanie Kuehn is a wordsmith, a masterful plotter exploring the complexities of the human mind, and I can't wait to see what she produces next. (The Smaller Evil looks so good!).

The Here and Now Award
Award for the best contemporary YA novel.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Undoubtedly, you've already heard of the awesomeness that is Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda; it was on the National Book Award longlist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I reviewed Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and encouraged people to pre-order the book. Simon was also recently optioned for a book to movie adaptation. Simon is a great YA contemporary, and I can't wait for more from Becky Albertalli.

The Reality Bites Award
Award for the best fantasy / sci-fi YA novel published in 2015.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This made me feel a little strange because I consider Bone Gap to be more like "magical realism" than SFF, but if there's no magical realism category, sure, Bone Gap, I'll mention you here. I can undoubtedly say that Bone Gap is one of the most unique YA books that I've read, which is probably why it was a National Book Award finalist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I love Laura Ruby's writing style; I love her willingness to try something completely different; I love her exploration of perception and beauty. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). 100% recommended.

Hot Under the Cover
Award for the best romance YA novel. (This also known as the Theo James Award for sexiest novel.)

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Well, this category was a little strange for me because none of my favorite YA novels are romance novels. They're romantic; the romance is frequently a side plot connected into the coming-of-age. But, ultimately, I still decided to nominate Dumplin'. I enjoyed and reviewed Dumplin', and discussed why people ought to anticipate its release. Willowdean made my list of favorite YA heroines, and I discussed more of the awesomeness of Dumplin' in aCinderella Book tag. I chose to nominate Dumplin' for romance because of all that and more. Julie Murphy has been getting reader emails suggesting that the romance is wish fulfillment because Willowdean is fat. No, ladies. Let's not play into this harmful societal narrative that fat girls deserve less. I enjoyed the romance in Dumplin', and my nominating Dumplin' for this category is also a statement against those reader emails.

World Series Champ
Award for your favorite new, on-going or series that ended in 2015!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. I was considering nominating The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (book 2 of The Bone Season, which I loved and have encouraged people to read), but it's technically considered adult and ineligible for the Book Shimmy Awards. I enjoyed and reviewed Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman; Seraphina is one of my favorite YA heroines. It's a shame that this inventive dragon duology has ended, but hopefully there will be more Rachel Hartman books to come!

The Blast from the Past Award
Award given to the best historical fiction book published in 2015.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. It was pretty awkward realizing that I hadn't read much historical YA this year; I had planned to read Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee but... haven't yet. Still, Walk on Earth a Stranger fits; its historical, Oregon-trail quest-like elements are more prominent than the fantastical gold hunting magic. Lee/Leah was one of my favorite YA heroines. Walk on Earth made my Cinderella Book Tag list, and I told people to anticipate its release. Of course, I also reviewed Walk on Earth a Stranger. Walk on Earth a Stranger was a great introduction to the Gold Seer trilogy, and I'm looking forward to more from Rae Carson.

The Retelling Award
Award for the best YA retelling published in 2015.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. I considered nominating Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge -- I've loved every one of her dark spins on fairy tales, including her short stories and novellas, and I reviewed Crimson Bound, encouraged people to pre-order the awesome book -- but ultimately I want there to be more Middle Eastern books that actually feel Middle Eastern in the way that A Thousand Nights does. I also considered nominated Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I reviewed here, but it's technically not a YA book (it's like Red Rising, both published by Del Rey as adult fiction but both frequently making YA book lists, which the publisher isn't going to complain about because it wants the crossover crowds). I reviewed A Thousand Nightsand have sung its praises whenever I could, including discussing my love for the main character. As someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I felt that A Thousand Nights was authentic. The atmosphere was wonderful. ATN is an epic fantasy that should not be missed.

The Most Anticipated Award
Award for the book you are most excited to read that publishes in 2016.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have a list of 2016 books and 2016 debuts that I need to write up, but I haven't done so yet. The Star-Touched Queen was "pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance infused with Indian mythology, about an unlikely princess who must overcome her sinister horoscope and embarks on a quest to unravel her true identity and find the one she loves." A.) We don't have enough YA fantasy that's actually diverse, and very little YA fantasy that aren't Western or European centric. B.) Indian mythology! C.) I don't even like Hades and Persephone that much, but I read The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi and her writing IS GORGEOUS. YES PLEASE to this book.

Book Nerd of the Year
Award given to your favorite contributer to the YA community. Nominate your favorite YA book blogger, vlogger, podcaster, Instagramer, Tumblr-er, ect. (Please list their handle and which platform! Example = @EpicReads on Instagram)

Ameriie at the booktube channel, Books Beauty Ameriie. If you're reading this, you might feel offended that I didn't nominate you. I can guarantee you that I considered you, especially if we're (close) friends. But unlike most of you, I've hung out with Ameriie in person several times, and we've been friends for over three years, so I know her book nerd ways intimately. This girl, when we first hung out, I can still remember feeling nervous in the way that you always are when you're hanging out with someone for the first time, but she made our interaction comfortable with her book nerd ways. Sniffing all those books, discussing our favorites, always driving to bookstores at the end of one of our writing days spent together... I mean, even if you forgo my personal experiences with Ameriie, all you need to do is check out her channel and here's a particular book nerd video: How She Reads. If you aren't one of her subscribers yet, you're seriously missing out on a wonderful perspective on both YA and adult books.

Books I almost nominated...

Those were my Book Shimmy Award nominations! Do we have any in common? What have you decided to nominate for each category?
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