Anya’s Ghost (by Vera Brosgol)

21 10 2012

The cat doesn’t read too many graphic novels, so there’s not a lot of stuff to compare this to, but one thing’s for sure: Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost sure as hell beats Ghost World, both graphically and story-wise.

Graphic style, of course, is something very subjective, but Vera Brosgol’s black and white drawn figures of Anya and her ghost have an appeal that is both creepy and tender, which made this graphic novel into a real page turner – unlike the aforementioned GW!

The cover of Anya’s Ghost  shows a blurb by Neil Gaiman, which isn’t all that surprising either, when you know that Vera Brosgol worked as a storyboard artist on the Coraline movie. And when you look at some of the stills of Coraline, I think you’ll recognize Brosgol’s touch.

Here are images of both Anya’s Ghost and Coraline:

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Anya is the oldest daughter of a Russian immigrant and single-mom of two. She has struggled to fit in for a long time, but she has finally reached a sort of point of ‘normalcy’ in her high school existence: she no longer has an accent, she cuts class (especially gym) like any other high school teen, she smokes and struggles with her weight. She attends a private school (the only one in the state her mom could afford) on the advice of her mom’s Russian (church-) friend, whose son, the complete fobby – fresh of the boat – Dima, got a scholarship there.  Her life gets a weird(er) edge when she falls down a well and meets a ghost, Emily Reilly. When Anya gets saved from the well, Emily manages to escape from the well too, courtesy of a small bone from her skeleton that ended up in Anya’s bag. Although she’s sort of cautious at first, Anya soon enjoys the advantages of have a ghostly BFF: Emily makes sure she gets good grades and that the high school’s most desirable jock she has a crush on notices her.

Vera Brosgol addresses a number of elements that contemporary teens often struggle with. She understands that the balance between family life and school life is a precarious one – something which gets even more complicated when you are the daughter of a Russian orthodox immigrant. She also deftly manages to incorporate a teen’s need to belong and the need to transgress (the thing about the plaid uniform skirts is so recognizable!).  Add to that the nice touch of fantasy, a smattering of mystery and intrigue, a great sense of (yes, snarky) humor, a main character who shows some actual growth and a incredibly cool no crap-taking side character (Siobhan), and the mix you get is a layered graphic novel the cat would recommend to anyone!

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