Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: "Anya's Ghost" by Vera Brosgol

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second, 2011

Anya, daughter of a Russian immigrant, insecure in her body, and just trying to fit in at her private school, ends up finding a friend in the most unlikely of places. After falling down a well, Anya discovers a skeleton... and its ghost that's been hanging out down there for about 90 years.

At first, Anya is obviously freaked. But she escapes from the well, with help from Emily (the ghost). Who ends up following her out. Emily turns out to be a great friend, helping her with school and boys, but Anya soon figures out that Emily is here to stay... whether she likes it or not.

This graphic novel is beyond awesome. The illustrations are outstanding, all in black, white, gray and muted purple. The pacing of the story is excellent too—we jump into the story right away with Anya's fall, discovery of the skeleton, and subsequent befriending of Emily Reilly, who died 90 years ago after she fell down the well herself.

This is also a mystery. Anya promises to search for Emily's murderer, who she says killed her parents and then chased her through the woods the night of her fall. But Emily seems strangely uninterested and not very eager for Anya to start her search. She's much more interested in finding Anya a way into the heart of her crush, basketball star Sean. Even when Anya isn't interested anymore. Slowly we begin to see Emily's true personality and psychosis, and Anya tries to uncover Emily's history.

I had to keep going back after finishing this to just look at the illustrations and relive parts of the story. There is true terror within the pages, but a more subtle terror than you might expect in a ghost story.

There's also a lot in here about acceptance of yourself and your culture, with Anya's denial of her background and attempts to keep her family out of the line of sight of her schoolmates. She avoids another Russian student at her school because he acts too "fobby," without giving him a chance at any sort of friendship because of his social status. Throughout the plot, she has to come to terms with all of this.

Whether you read graphic novels or not, this is one you should go out and read immediately. The story and illustrations are in perfect harmony to make for one scary and mysterious ride.

Disclosure: I got this from my local library.

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