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Anya’s Ghost
By Vera Brosgol
ISBN: 9781596435520
Publisher: First Second Books
Date of Publication: 2011
Reader’s Annotation:
When Anya meets a real ghost at the bottom of an old well, her already confusing life begins to morph into something uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Plot Summary:
Anya isn’t having the best day. Her mother doesn’t understand why Anya doesn’t want to eat all the time. She has a crush on a boy that doesn’t know she even exists. Her only friend is mad that Anya doesn’t want to share her cigarettes. And if her day wasn’t complicated enough, Anya has accidentally fallen down into an abandoned well with no chance of an immediate rescue.

But this accident proves to be interesting as at the bottom of the well lives a lonely ghost who now wants to be Anya’s friend. Eventually, Anya is rescued but she discovers that the ghost, Emily, has followed Anya out of the well. Now Anya and Emily have formed an unlikely alliance, with Emily helping Anya in her class work and gaining the attention of Anya’s crush. But Anya soon discovers that a friendship with a ghost is a different experience, especially when Anya begins to investigate how Emily became a ghost in the first place.

Critical Evaluation:
Author and artist Vera Brosgol was once herself a Russian immigrant. Using her own experiences with cultural emergence and immigrant parental confusion, Brosgol succeeds in creating a believable character in Anya. Brosgol’s art is delightful in that it is accessible to both teen and adult readers. The colors are not primarily black and white but a mixture of both with a lighter dark purple contrast. The results provides a suitable background for the horror elements of the story.

In regards to the writing, Brosgol uses a simple ghost story to highlight the trials and tribulations of the teen experience, quite similar to the analogy of terror that Writer/Director Joss Whedon used in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. The high school experience is horrific in that the boundaries of childhood and adulthood are riffed with confusion and heartache. Anya wants to fit in but she knows she never will. She’s an immigrant, an outsider to a different world. This is served to highlight that it’s okay to be different and that sometimes these differences can change everything.

Brosgol succeeds in creating a relatable story while still using horror elements to enhance the story. The art is wonderful and would be a great book for anyone looking to explore the graphic novel medium.

Information about the author:
Born in Moscow, Russia, Vera Brosgol currently lives in Portland, Oregon. A graduate from Sheridan College, Brosgol’s focus was in animation, a skill she has used in her illustration work for various comic book anthologies. Brosgol began honing her animation talent early in her life.

“As for comics, I started drawing comics for fun when I was in high school. I’d actually been drawing them even earlier as a little kid, but I didn’t know to put the drawings into boxes so they were just sequential drawings floating on a page.  I guess that’s how my brain works” (Brosgol, 2011)

Anya’s Ghost is her first graphic novel. Brosgol has also worked on the recent animated film, Paranorman.

Vera Brosgol on Twitter
Vera Brosgol on Flickr

Genre:
Horror/Thriller, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Ghost Stories, Second Generation Immigrants

Booktalking Ideas:
Have you ever had an imaginary friend?
Have you ever felt self-conscious about your family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests a reading age of 12-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include violence and horror elements.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I had read this book for a course on Graphic Novels and Comic Books. I found the art to be enjoyable and the story engrossing. As the protagonist deals with ghosts and alienation, I thought this would be a great choice for those looking for an alternative to the mainstream paranormal titles.

Reference page:
Brosgol, V. (2011). Frequently Asked Questions. Verabee.com. Retrieved from verabee.com/2011/12/frequently-asked-questions/

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). Anya’s Ghost. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/vera-brosgol/anyas-ghost/

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