Back blurb of Anya's Ghost by Vera Brogsol*: Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn't kidding about the "Forever" part. 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 from author/artist Vera Brosgol.
My two centsSo I was reading the densely packed Snow by Orhan Pamuk and was fresh off the amazing Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. While I can't deny that Read Nobels Challenge 2016 is upping my reading game, it's heavy stuff. Good but heavy. So to break it up, I picked up this graphic novel.
But look closely at the cover ... and lo and behold, Neil Gaiman loves this book! I can't think of higher praise. So off I go into the pages of this quirky ghost story.
This starts out with an introduction to Anya's angsty teenage life, spiced up by the fact that she had made her Russian immigrant self American enough to actually fit in and be cool. She has one close friend, who is every bit as interesting as herself but who gets on her nerves (probably as much as her friend gets on Anya's nerves, you do know that teenage friendships are complicated, right?) One day, Anya accidentally falls into an old well.
In the middle of darkness and scared to death, she is befriended by ... yes, a ghost of a young woman called Emily Reilly! With the ghost's help, Anya is able to get out of the well. A friendship develops between Anya and the ghost getting help in daily things, school, boys, and just hanging out. Over time, Anya learns about the ghost's sad past and Anya vows to help Emily. Then it all takes a pretty bizarre, even sinister turn, when Anya realizes that Emily may not be the Casper, the friendly ghost, she hoped for. True circumstances and motives are revealed ... you'll want to find out!
I'm not a huge graphic novel reader but admit it is a genre I'd like to get more into. Short text with amazing graphics holds a charm and appeal to me. This one was a nice surprise on so many fronts.
For one, I like listening to author recommendations and I think Neil Gaiman definitely saw something special about Anya's Ghost! I'm a huge Gaiman fan so I knew it had to have a bit of darkness to it. I thought this was sweet, cute, dark (yes!), and oh-my-goodness, so funny!
Another aspect I enjoyed is that this is cutesy but has real world teenage situations - complicated teenage friendships, the need to fit in, peer pressure, sex (yes, it's implied!). One obvious theme points to the pressures of immigrants to making a new country their new home. This is explored in Anya's own day-to-day struggle of "fending off" her mother's insistence on holding on to her Russian customs, food, and community. While Anya has managed to become "American" enough to fit in, it is contrasted with a younger and newer immigrant who is bullied, made fun of, as he slowly tries to assimilate.
Lastly, the illustrations! Brogsol's cartoons are beautiful and quirky. I love them!
VerdictA quick and enjoyable read for teenagers and young adults. Those who enjoy quirky graphic novels with a dark twist will surely enjoy this. I'm very curious what Brogsol will churn out next.
Do you read graphic novels? Does this appeal to you?