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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian Girl
This is a great graphic novel for young teens -- especially girls -- with a well-paced story and plenty to say about social anxiety, body image, friendship, and ghostbusting. Anya is a 9th or 10th-grader at a lower-tier private school (not unlike the one I went to), who is embarrassed by her immigrant past. Her family came to the US from Russia when she was five, and she...
Published on June 7, 2011 by A. Ross

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Review
First, let me say that I love that this text is a graphic novel. I think graphic novels are going to be the hot new thing in adolescent literature. As a future teacher, I could totally see myself assigning graphic novels to below level readers to get them excited about reading. Just the fact that this text is illustrated will make young people more interested...
Published 11 months ago by Mthanna


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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian Girl, June 7, 2011
This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Hardcover)
This is a great graphic novel for young teens -- especially girls -- with a well-paced story and plenty to say about social anxiety, body image, friendship, and ghostbusting. Anya is a 9th or 10th-grader at a lower-tier private school (not unlike the one I went to), who is embarrassed by her immigrant past. Her family came to the US from Russia when she was five, and she has worked very hard to lose any accent, eat American foods (while not becoming plump), dress properly, and generally fit in as an American teen. However, the signs of her angst are literally postered all over her bedroom: Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Neko Case, The Shins, Metric, etc. -- all perfectly good bands, but indicative of an underlying wistfulness. (Had she been of my generation, there surely would have been at least one Smiths and one Cure poster.)

One afternoon, she falls down a hole in the park and makes the acquaintance of a ghost from 1918 named Emily. She's been hovering over her skeleton for years, mourning the death of her fiancee in WWI, and herself at the hands of a murderer. One of Emily's bones gets into Anya's bag by accident, and when she'd rescued, Emily is able to hitch a ride to the surface. Before too long Anya and she become friends, with Anya spilling her insecurities to her new gal-pal ghost as Emily tries to help her succeed at school, fashion, and with the boy she has a crush on. Of course, as anyone who's watched a teen makeover comedy knows, there's always danger when the geeky girl tries to rebrand herself according to the conventional norms.

The final third of the book takes a rather menacing turn as Anya starts to realize that even the shiny popular kids have issues lurking just below the surface. This is all kind of John Hughes 101) type stuff (there's even a subplot involving a nerdy Russian kid whom Anya shuns but then has to turn to for help), but it's well done and the high contrast artwork brings it to life in a way that's neither too cartoony nor too realistic. Based on the brief author bio on the back, it sounds like many of the themes are autobiographical, as are many aspects of Anya's personality -- which is probably why it feels so dead on. Great stuff for girls in the 10-14 range or thereabouts, and still fairly entertaining for others.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anya's Ghost -- Essential for Every Graphic Novel Lover, June 16, 2011
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Hardcover)
Vera Bosgol's graphic novel Anya's Ghost is a tale of an angst-ridden, curvy teenage girl who attends Catholic school. Her family's from Russia, although her years of time in ESL have trained her to abandon her embarrassing accent in order to fit in with her peers. A fellow classmate, Dimi, is also from Russia, but his shameless love of his culture--along with his large glasses, funny haircut, and general dorkiness--earn him regular beatings at school. Anya has done everything in her power to avoid this, including refusing to eat the greasy Russian treats her mom fries up in the morning. While her brother bounces around, eagerly awaiting his delicious meal, Anya is clearly above this sort of behavior.

The story begins with Anya walking to school and encountering her boyish friend Siobhan (more specifically her only friend), who pesters Anya for cigarettes and becomes angry when she is offered none. Infuriated by this argument, Anya storms away into a nearby forest on her own. Unfortunately, an open well goes unnoticed and she falls into it. She amazingly winds up with nothing worse a sprained wrist, but now she has concerns whether she will be rescued from the bottom of the well. A skeleton is her only companion deep in the well--that is until a homely ghost named Emily greets her. Emily tells Anya she has been trapped in the well for ninety years after a gruesome murder. The reason she never tried to escape can be attributed to her pile of bones, which she can never depart from.

After being rescued, Anya reluctantly allows Emily to be her friend by wearing a small finger bone around her neck. She quickly discovers the benefits of having a ghost as a friend, however, as Emily can sneak answers from classmates' tests and peek into the locker of a handsome boy to find his schedule. As the story moves along, their relationship changes, and so does Anya. Ultimately, Anya must make a major decision regarding Emily.

Although Emily claims she had a fiancé before her death, this is rather hard to believe: the character is clearly drawn as if she's an eleven-year-old girl who has yet to reach the puberty stage. Her large and poofy bob, schoolgirl jumper, and noticeably flat chest only emphasize this. But apparently the author had a different (and confusing) idea for her age. Regardless of this minor flaw, Brosgol has drawn Anya's Ghost impeccably and with great care. It's not surprising she was a storyboard artist for the film Coraline, as the entire graphic novel could essentially serve as a storyboard for an animated film--not to mention several similarities with Gaiman's story.

Brosgol's impressive storytelling skills seamlessly weave through moments of being touching, funny, and thrilling. The genre is difficult to pinpoint, as it has elements of horror, drama, coming-of-age, comedy, and more. Anya's weight troubles, crush on the popular basketball star, and awkward attempts to blend into society may especially resonate with young women, but regardless of age or gender, this is a book that will be enjoyed by many. With hints of Coraline, American Born Chinese, and perhaps even Persepolis, Anya's Ghost is already destined to be an essential on the library of every graphic novel fan--and hopefully beyond that. Anya's Ghost won't take the average reader very long to read, but it's worth every single penny.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Gaiman says it best "A masterpiece", June 10, 2011
By 
Andy Shuping (White River Junction, VT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
I first started hearing about this graphic novel a couple of months ago and it immediately caught my attention. How often does Neil Gaiman lend his praise to a work? And then I started seeing the sample pages that First Second released and I was captivated by the illustrations. So needless to say I was really looking forward to reading this book (I kept trying to find someone that would let me read it an ARC because I was so excited about it.) And the book doesn't disappoint at all. It's the perfect story for young and old alike that deals with so many of the same issues that we all face--anxiety about who we are, body image, who are friends are, and growing up just a little bit.

Anya is a young teenage girl in high school who is embarrassed by where she and her family came from...Russia. She's trying hard to fit in by losing her accent, wearing the "right" clothes, going on diets, and trying to hang out with the "right" people...in other words not the nerdy Russian boy in her class. But...try as she might she doesn't fit in with the crowd that she really wants to...the popular ones. And then one day, she falls down an abandoned well in the park and meets a skeleton...and the ghost of the young girl from 1918 named Emily. Emily has been forgotten about and can't wander far from her skeleton and was just waiting for someone to come back and visit her. She keeps Anya company as she waits to be rescued, which she soon is, and one of Emily's bones hitches a ride...and Emily's ghost follows. Although there's trepidation at first Emily soon becomes Anya's confidant and helping her get the right answers on exams, making suggestions about what to wear, and help Anya get the attention of her crush. But things soon take a darker turn when it's revealed Emily isn't who she said she was and Anya must protect her family from Emily's darker nature.

This is a powerful debut full length graphic novel for Vera (she's done a couple of short stories before) and it's a wonderfully told story. It's a tightly woven tale with mystery, intrigue, and some growing up as well for all of the characters, not just Anya. It moves along at a nice pace and we get a strong sense of who the characters are and what motivates them. It's one of the best stories I've read in a while and unlike some other writers going from short features to full length, Vera doesn't suffer from having gaps in the tale or missing elements. And the illustrations are reminiscent of some old black and white horror films with juuuust the right amount of depth to them without being overly cartoony.

It's a fantastic read and I can't say enough good things about it. I highly recommend it to all and I look forward to seeing what Vera does next.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club. com, June 14, 2011
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
There's a lot to irritate Anya about her life. Her mother cooks fattening food, she's associated with an unpopular boy in school just because they're both Russian immigrants, her close friend is mad at her and she never expects to date the boy she has a crush on. Running away from her problems seems like the best thing to do until she falls down an abandoned well. There she discovers the skeleton of a young woman who died long ago, and her ghost talks to Anya and helps her get out.

Soon Emily's spirit is following Anya to school and staying at her home, and she wants to help her succeed at whatever she tries. But Emily is hiding a secret about her past, and when Anya starts to suspect the truth, Emily's "help" takes a sinister turn.

Anya's Ghost is a graphic novel for young adults written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol. Anya, with all her worries about fitting in, is easy prey for Emily, who longs to have experiences again through a living human. And at first, Emily seems to help Anya get everything she wants: attention from her crush, acceptance from cool kids, and help on tests. Once Anya is part of the world she admires, she begins to see that it's not what she dreamed it was. But getting rid of Emily and getting back to her old life proves to be more challenging than Anya thought it would be.

Girls aged 14 and up will relate to the issues of wanting to fit in, being embarrassed by family members, and wanting easy solutions to complicated problems.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Review, November 14, 2013
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
First, let me say that I love that this text is a graphic novel. I think graphic novels are going to be the hot new thing in adolescent literature. As a future teacher, I could totally see myself assigning graphic novels to below level readers to get them excited about reading. Just the fact that this text is illustrated will make young people more interested.
Brosgol's story is about Anya, a young girl facing the same issues that are almost cliche to young women. She is insecure about her body, loves a boy who doesn't know shes alive, feels jealous of the perfect, blonde, popular girl, and is embarrassed of her parents. The only really unique thing about Anya is that her mother is a Russian immigrant, so she deals with many issues of culture in her desperate need to assimilate.
Though Anya's Ghost touches on many themes that are universally dealt with by teens, especially girls, there is not a lot that is particularly special about the novel. I liked the theme that things are not always what they appear, which is arguably the moral of the entire story. However, the plot felt really thin, and I did not really care about any of the characters or really take much away from the text and I think that is the risk you run with a graphic novel. There just was not enough complexity or levels to the text which is why I think an advanced reader would feel a little bored by this.
I understand that Anya changes as a character and comes to appreciate her family and her heritage through her encounter with a crazy ghost, but it felt pretty flat. I would recommend this text to young or below level readers. The illustrations are awesome, and I could see finding more complexities in the drawings than the actual text or plot. I guess maybe that's the point of a graphic novel, but I cannot say that I loved this text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian girl and the ghost, October 15, 2011
This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
Big surprise: "Anya's Ghost" is about a ghost. And a girl named Anya. But Vera Nosgol's graphic novel is definitely a lot more than that, as it shows a young girl discovering the difference between what she thinks she wants and what she really does want. And her journey is intertwined with wry humor, the uglier layers of high school, and a ghost story that takes a very sinister, dark turn in the last third.

Anya is a fairly typical teen girl -- embarrassed by her very Russian family, unhappy with her curvy body, and enamored of the handsomest, most popular boy at school. On her way home, Anya accidentally falls down an old well. At the bottom, she discovers a ghost named Emily who died there ninety years ago -- and when Anya gets out, she accidentally brings Emily's finger bone with her, allowing the ghost to roam with her.

And at first, Emily makes everything better -- she sympathizes with Anya's woes, helps her on tests, and even helps her interact with her crush. But at a wild party, Anya discovers that the "perfect" teenagers don't quite have the perfect lives she thought. And after a bit of research into Emily's death, Anya realizes that her new friend has a horrifying dark side -- and unless Anya does what she wants, she's going to target Anya's family.

At first, "Anya's Ghost" feels like a 1980s John Hughes coming-of-age movie, only with the added twist of a ghostly companion. There's a lot of angst, crushes, school woes, and a teenage heroine who has to discover what is really important for her in life. And at first, it seems that this is a light little tale about a girl and her ghostly BFF. But everything takes a dark, spinechilling turn later in the story, especially since Emily suddenly develops a creepy, Single White Female-ish fixation on Anya's love life.

And Nosgol's stark, thick-lined artwork really enhances all the emotions the characters feel. The climax is absolutely, um, spinechilling, without any excessive flourishes. And the scene where Anya has an honest talk with the class outcast is touching without being maudlin.

And Anya herself is a startlingly realistic depiction of a teenage girl -- she's embarrassed by her odd family, tries desperately to fit in, and is uncomfortable with her curvy body. But before long, we see hints that her disaffected, sarcastic persona is just a shell, and that the real Anya is a much more reliable, goodhearted person. Emily is the flipside: she seems sweet, gentle and earnest at first, but grows increasingly creepy.

"Anya's Ghost" is one half ghost story, one half high-school/coming-of-age tale. And it's a superb, eerie story right to the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming debut, October 10, 2011
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
I became aware of Anya's Ghost at Comic-Con when I saw the author speak on the "Diversity in YA" panel. This is her first book, although recently she was a storyboard artist on the movie Coraline. And, Neil Gaiman has described this book as "A Masterpiece!" Although I haven't read many graphic novels, I knew I needed to check this one out, so I put it on hold at the library. I devoured the book in one sitting and was charmed by the drawings and the imaginative and creepy story. This YA graphic novel is a fast moving page turner and I think has crossover appeal to fans of both YA and graphic novels.

The illustrations are appealingly drawn in shades of black, white and purple and done in a clean and easy to follow way. Anya is someone anyone who has ever had trouble fitting in can relate to. She has always felt like an outsider and has worked hard to hide her Russian heritage to avoid standing out at her snooty private school. She rejects her mother's traditional fatty foods and puts pressure on herself to diet to fit the skinny ideal mold. She tries to hide her accent and to not been seen as "fobby" (fresh off the boat) like her family friend Dima. She is not a great student, she smokes and cuts class with her sometimes friend Siobhan, and crushes on the unattainable popular athlete Sean. One day when she's feeling down in the dumps, Anya falls down a hole and meets a ghost named Emily. Once the ghostly Emily enters the picture, life changes in unexpected directions for Anya.

The fresh story and twists and turns held my interest all the way to the end. The themes are relatable, including feeling bored and out of place in high school; pressure to fit a certain body image, and identity and self worth. The humor and surprises found in the book are also a treat. Recommended for other graphic novel newbie's, and the paranormal side of the story would also make it a great read around Halloween time. I was impressed with the book stylistically and also the great message. I would definitely read more graphic novels like this one and will keep this author on my radar.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anya's Ghost, August 21, 2011
This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgal, is a graphic novel about a teenaged Russian immigrant to the US who falls into a well, finds a ghost, and makes a friend. Anya moved to the US with her mother and younger brother when she was five years old and has expended a lot of energy changing her accent, updating her wardrobe and losing weight so that she can fit in with her classmates. But she doesn't feel like she fits in at all- she only has one friend, Siobhan, and she can be pretty mean. She struggles in class and feels like a complete outsider. One day, going through a park, she falls into a well and meets Emily, the ghost of a girl who died about ninety years before. Emily comes out of the well with Anya and helps her gain confidence in dealing with the difficulties of high school. But soon, Emily is insisting a bit too much on the way Anya's life should be led, and Anya must decide whether she wants to keep Emily as one of her few friends or let her go.

In a way, this is a pretty typical story. A girl feels very self-conscious and alone in the world, and is very defensive and confrontational because of it. And then something happens- some catalyst action or person- that makes the girl realize that she has value and can make good choices, too. But just because this is a typical coming-of-age story arc, that doesn't mean that it can't be done well. And I think Brosgal succeeds.

This story reminded me of a book I read when I was much younger and don't even recall that well any more, Wait Till Helen Comes. In that book, too, a girl encounters a ghost who encroaches on her life in more and more disturbing ways. Emily was an excellently written character. I loved how the graphic representation of her evolved over the course of the book. She started as a timid, dowdily portrayed ghost, and then became more defined and svelte as the book continued and she experienced more of the world. Comparing her to Anya, who had such expressive features, was one of my favorite things about the drawings in this book.

What I like most about Anya is that she knows from the start that she has value. She is confident enough to know when a gorgeous, athletic guy who expresses interest in her is actually not a good person at all. She also feels sorry for the beautiful, kind girl that is dating the guy because she's so worried about her image. Anya wants friends, but she knows better than to put herself down in order to gain them. I also like that this book addresses a lot of the difficulties of being a teenager, but doesn't try to solve everything. Anya struggles with her weight, is uncomfortable with her body, isn't interested in school and feels like an outcast. Brosgal acknowledges all of these things, but she really focuses her story on Anya showing the confidence to be her own person, especially in her final confrontation with Emily. I really appreciated that. I think the simple color scheme- all in varying shades of grayscale- really helps to project this, too. Anya's face is full of expression, as is her body stance. You can tell what she's feeling even without reading the words.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I'm glad I was able to read it so quickly as it's been a very long time since I've read a graphic novel! Recommended for fans of YA fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, poignant, nicely captures the awkwardness of adolesence, January 1, 2014
By 
Steven Rehrauer (Massachusetts, MA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Hardcover)
I bought this for my nine-year-old daughter, on the strength of reviews, and based on some other graphic novels and books she's liked. She loved it -- devoured it in a single day, wouldn't put it down until she'd finished.

So I read it myself. I'd now put this author/artist's work on my "buy now" list. Lovely artwork, but the story-telling is the strongest point of this work. Many light humorous touches, age-appropriate drama, and a strong and realistic yet sympathetic portrayal of young teens and their desire for independence and acceptance. Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very intriguing, December 26, 2013
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This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)
This is book was bought as a present for a friend. Before i gave it to them i decided to read it. It's a very quick read but the story is wonderful. So different and interesting. Would definitely recommend to anyone, even if you don't like comic books (I don't).
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Anya's Ghost
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Paperback - June 7, 2011)
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