Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend–even a ghost–is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks.
Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut graphic novel from author/artist Vera Brosgol.
A 2011 Kirkus Best Teen Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Fiction Book of 2011
A Horn Book Best Fiction Book of 2011
Winner of the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Young Adults (Ages 12-17)
Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol 7.75
Anya’s Ghost is a young adult graphic novel that tells the story of a teenager who falls into an old well in the forest and finds a skeleton. And its ghost. Unfortunately for Anya, when she is finally found, she scrambles to put all her things back into her back and unknowingly takes a pinky bone with her.
And, consequently, the ghost.
Thankfully, the ghost is friendly. Named Emily, she is the soul of a teenaged girl who died nearly a century ago. At first Anya is annoyed with her, but Emily soon offers to use her ectoplasmic form to help Anya in school and in her social life. The pair become nearly inseparable, with Anya wearing the pinky on a necklace.
But then she begins to see another side of Emily after she tries to pressure Anya to pursue a boy whom she liked but discovered was a heel. Soon Anya sees that Emily has an ulterior motive. And a dark secret. Emily begins to change – not just in form, but her personality as well. Anya must now try to get rid of her bestie.
But how do you get rid of a ghost?
This is Brosgol’s first graphic novel and, frankly, as far as first attempts go, this is an excellent one. While the enthusiastic quote from Neil Gaiman might be an overstatement, ‘Anya’s Ghost’ reads well, is contextually plausible, is injected with all manners of subtleties, is well-designed and looks really quite good.
I especially liked that we got realistic portrayal of a teenaged girls, with Anya’s views on her family, her heritage, her looks, her love life, her friendships and even her school work. The book doesn’t gloss things over nor does it overdramatize any of it to make it more titillating. Life is already dramatic enough as it is.
A perfect example of this is when she goes to a house party that the apple of her eye, Sean, is going to. She dresses up sexier than she’s comfortable with to get his attention, ignores the fact that he’s got a girlfriend already, bums a ride from him (and his gf!) and even seeks him out upstairs at the party, where he’s known to hang out.
The scene is interesting because it delves into all sorts of moral gray zones: Why isn’t Anya concerned about Sean having a girlfriend? Is Anya naïve or hopeful? Why is Sean inviting Anya’s attentions (Could he be interested in Anya)? Why isn’t his girlfriend saying anything about it? Could she and Sean be taking pity on her?
It all seems ambiguous until we discover that the girlfriend’s self-esteem is so tied into her relationship that she allows Sean to cheat on her, feeling that being seen with him overrides the ritual humiliation. Ouch. And, while Sean seemed nice at first, we discover that he’s actually a terrible human being who uses people.
Thankfully, Emily learns from that. She isn’t a victim.
It’s this type complexity that makes the book enjoyable to read. Ghost stories are a dime a dozen, as are angsty teen dramas. But Brosgol was able to put the two together and wrap them up in layers of subtle moral quandary. This makes the characters more realistic, more interesting, more relatable. If imperfect.
In that sense, ‘Anya’s Ghost’ stands out from the rest. It’s worth checking out.