Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol
Bibliographic Information (APA): Brosgol, Vera. (2011). Anya’s Ghost. First Second: New York, USA.
Category: Graphic Novel
Subcategories: Award-winning, & Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense
Descriptive Summary: Anya is a lonely high school girl who could just use a friend. Someone to talk to, about how her Russian mother won’t let her adapt to being American without a fight, how she doest like school work, or how that other Russian boy, Dima, at her school is a social pariah and he wont leave her alone, or how she likes that popular boy Sean but he doesn’t even know she exists. All she wants is someone who understands her. Anya gets all that and more when she accidentally falls down an abandoned well where she finds the skeletal remains and the ghost of Emily (a girl who also fell down the well and died 90 years ago). At first, Anya thinks her new friendship with Emily is pretty cool and comes with all sorts of benefits. There are, however, troubling things about Emily’s past that Anya begins to wonder about and it doesn’t take long before Anya begins to investigate Emily as she starts to become more of a problem than a friend.
Book Talking Hooks: Anya’s Ghost is a really great portrayal of all the things that many teens struggle with; being accepted, being popular, having crushes, and dealing with occasionally annoying family. This book is really relatable to the real-life experiences of young adults. All the frustrations that Anya experiences are neatly encapsulated, as well as beautifully and graphically expressed from a teen’s perspective (Brosgol, 2011, p. 12, 63, & 70).
Anya’s harrowing adventure is a really interesting one in that it happens right out in the open, and yet the real truth of what is going on remains a secret. Only she knows about Emily, and grapples with the consequences of her actions. It is a really interesting inside-and-outside perspective of the situation that develops. In a way, this is very much like a teen’s experiences and personal problems (minus the creepy ghost, of course!) (Brosgol, 2011, p. 49, 55, 69, & 170).
People are not who they seem. Anya is so sure she has Elizabeth (a girl she does not much like) all figured out, but she does not and it turns out she does not really know Sean either (Brosgol, 2011, p. 121, 142, 69, 170, 220). Anya begins to realize how important it is to get to know someone before you judge them.
Evaluative Comments: 5/5. Anya’s Ghost is really well drawn, and makes good use of black, white and grey, which matches the spookier sides of the story. The expressiveness of the character’s faces and the eloquent body language compliment the minimal use of script really nicely. For example, Anya’s terror and panic when she stuck in the well is really well communicated through facial expressions and body language (Brosgol, 2011, p. 14-16).
It is a real compliment to this novel that really crucial plot elements to the story have been beautifully communicated without words. Certain things about Emily’s past, for example, are a real revelation, and the stark clarity of the images with no speech still communicates everything a reader needs to know (Brosgol, 2011, p. 153-156).
also did a really good job with the gradual increase of the “creep” factor. Emily seems really wholesome and friendly and (despite being a ghost) so “normal.” Her gradual slip into darker mannerisms is so subtle; you do not realize what is going on at first before the darkness quickly escalates right at the end (Brosgol, 2011, p. 112, 159, 170, & 179).
Ultimately, I really liked how this story shows that courage comes in many forms, both the physical and moral kind. Sometimes it takes a moment to realize that you are being selfish and using people badly, or that you are so wrapped in yourself and your own problems that you don’t look up and notice that other people feel as alone as you. Eventually Anya not only remembers to really live her life, but to live life on her own terms!
Readers’ Advisory Notes: Anya’s Ghost came as a pleasant surprise with its intricate plot and excellent use of atmosphere. At times there was a dark sense of foreshadowing and foreboding that blended really well with the creepy, and menacing but also the darkly humorous.
Reason for Inclusion: Anya’s Ghost has received many awards, and seemed like a popular choice. For example, Anya’s Ghost is a 2011 Kirkus Best Teen Book of the Year Title, and one of The School Library Journal’s and one of Hornbook’s Best Fiction Books of 2011.
Vera Brosgol, the author, was awarded the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2012 for Best Publication for Young Adults and the Harvey Award in 2012 for the Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers (both for Anya’s Ghost). This book was also recommended to me by several people who had already read it and liked it, so I thought I would give it a try and I really enjoyed it!
Suggested Audience: I would recommend Anya’s Ghost to any teen interested in comics, and graphic novels as an introduction to other forms of graphic art if they already read genres like anime and/or manga. Although the storyline can be a bit scary, I would recommend it to young adults aged 12 and up as there is no real violence or nudity.
Comic-Con International (2012). “2012 Eisner Awards.” Retrieved fromhttp://www.comic-con.org/awards/eisner-award-recipients-2010-present
Kirkus Reviews (2011). “Best Teen Books of 2011.” Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/best-of/2011/teen/
The Harvey Awards (2012). Retrieved from http://www.harveyawards.org/2012/09/09/congratulations-to-the-harvey-award-recipients/
Hornbook Fanfare (2011). “Our Choices for the Best Books of 2011.” Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/2011/12/choosing-books/recommended-books/horn-book-fanfare-2011/
School Library Journal (2011). “Best Books 2011: Fiction.” Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/articlereview/892885-451/best_books_2011_fiction.html.csp