Title: Anya’s Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Year Published: 2011
Length: 221 pages
Book source: Bought
Grade Range: 7 and up, Age Range: 12 and up
Premise: Anya’s Ghost is author/artist Vera Brosgol’s first book and there are sample pages for you to preview. It tells the story about immigrant teens trying to fit in at school. Annushka Borzakovskaya is Russian. Her family moved to the US when she was five and since then she’s worked really hard to lose her accent. She doesn’t want to be labeled as the weird kid at her third-rate (her words) private school. She tries to keep up with her fellow teens by wearing the right clothes and socializing with the right people even though they are rich and snobby. She’s embarrassed by her family being immigrants by lying about her last name and she’s self-conscious about her weight by refusing to eat her mom’s fattening meals. At school, she smokes and skips classes with her one and only friend, Siobhan. To make matters even more complicated, she has a crush on “Sean from the basketball team.”
Anya decides to take a detour from her walk home from school to escape her problems and sort them out but she ends up falling down an abandoned well. There’s a skeleton on the ground and out comes the 90-year-old spirit of Emily Reilly. She’s about the same age as Anya when she died. She fills Anya in on her background and it’s a tragic story with a hidden secret. After two days Anya is finally rescued thanks to Emily. Soon after, Emily unexpectedly turns up at her house. The two become tight friends when Emily helps her out at school and helps her gain the attention of her crush. Emily tries really hard to live her life vicariously through Anya thus causing her to become a nuisance. This prompts Anya to go searching for the truth and what she finds out is somewhat shocking.
Review: Neil Gaiman is quoted on the cover as saying this is a “masterpiece.” I can only respond to that with: oh really? The themes in here are familiar YA themes but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t an entertaining story. I liked Anya. She’s funny. She’s your typical teen I guess with the added complications to make her life difficult. There’s another young guy who attends school with her and his name is Dima. He’s also Russian and her friend teases her by calling him her “boyfriend.” Dima is bullied by the other guys at school because he’s not only a foreigner but he’s a geek, too. A double whammy. Anya avoids him.
This was a fun read geared toward young teenage girls and older. The message is about self-identity and fitting in. Anya discovers on her own how easy it is to judge the cool kids and assume that their lives are better than her own. You know that old saying: perception is truth. Well, what Anya thought to be true turns out not to be the case. Also there’s nothing wrong with being different but in high school that’s a different world and one must do whatever it takes to socially survive.
Ideally one shouldn’t have to shuck their identity to fit in but like Anya says these are different times. True friends will accept you for who you are and embrace the differences but in reality we know that isn’t always the case. Luckily for her she has such a friend. Overall I enjoyed this graphic novel. I’m not surprised that First Second published this story because they usually put out high quality stuff. The message is a good one even if it is well, familiar to this reader. The B&W artwork is nice and since I’m no expert in the field that’s all I’ll say about it. B.