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Anya's Ghost Hardcover – June 7, 2011
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“Anya's Ghost is a masterpiece, of YA literature and of comics.” ―Neil Gaiman
“Remarkable. . . . with an attitude and aptitude reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) who likewise conveyed the particulars of an immigrant adolescence, Brosgol has created a smart, funny and compassionate portrait of someone who, for all her sulking and sneering, is the kind of daughter many parents would like to have. And the kind of girl many of us maybe once were.” ―The New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
When Anya gets rescued, Emily ends up tagging along. Anya doesn’t much want a ghost in her life, but she is helpful in certain ways. She can help her with answers during tests. She can find out when her crush will be out of class. She gives her tips on being popular. Emily wants to be Anya’s friend forever. And that could be a problem, because Emily is keeping secrets, and she’s a lot more dangerous than she lets on…
I wasn't expecting a lot from this. It starts out the way we’ve seen a couple dozen other graphic novels — misunderstood geek girl, unhappy with her life, grows up, becomes more mature, learns to appreciate the friends and family she has and maybe makes some more friends, too.
This one? It follows the familiar path for a while, and then, slowly, it turns into fairly straightforward horror. The end goal is still the same — personal and emotional growth for the protagonist — but it’s interesting how much the tension and fright ramps up, and how serious and powerful the threat becomes. There’s no gore or anything like that, but it’s still a nice piece of low-key horror.
The characters are great, too. Anya and Emily are the obvious focal points, but Anya’s mother and brother are also very well-created. Everyone else is fun, too — there’s not a dull character in the bunch — snarky Siobhan, geeky Dima, skeezy Sean, beautiful but miserable Elizabeth, even the school principal at the end.
Vera Brosgol’s art is moderately cartoony, but cartooning helps make the characters and situations more universal, more appealing, and more emotional. And the art does a fantastic job of conveying the humor of the story, as well as the eerie shenanigans going on behind the scenes.
Lesson learned that I need to pay closer attention selecting these types of books!