Everyone’s life seems so much easier… But that’s all you know! (…) You don’t know what’s going on inside anyone else’s head.Anya’s Ghost tells the story of Anya Borzakovskaya, a Russian-born high school student living in America and struggling to fit in. Anya has a complicated relationship with her best (and only) friend, Siobhan; she feels horribly embarrassed by Dima, the only other Russian student at her school; she struggles with her weight, her now-suppressed accent and her clothes; and she envies the seemingly perfect life of the girl who’s dating the boy she has a crush on. Anya is not exactly an outcast, but she could use a new friend. So when she finds herself tumbling into a well after school one day, she ends up befriending the ghost of Emily Reilly, a girl who died ninety years before. Having a ghost for a friend proves extremely useful at first, but things eventually take a dark turn: it turns out that there’s far more to Emily’s story than meets the eye.
It’s difficult to pick the most impressive thing about Anya’s Ghost, but if I had to go with one it might be the expressiveness of Brosgol’s art. There are entirely wordless panels where a silence, a look or the expression on one of the character’s faces speaks volumes. These quiet moments work together with the dialogue and storytelling to convey Anya’s complex and tumultuous inner world. Anya is in a place where she constantly has to negotiate the borders between different spheres: her native Russian culture and her adopted American one, her home and her school, the worlds of childhood and of adulthood, and perhaps most notably of all, the person she is and the person she thinks she’s going to become.
The title Anya’s Ghost alludes to Emily, but if we take a closer look at the story a second meaning emerges. Emily is her own person, but her presence in Anya’s life also symbolises the impulses she constantly battles, with varying degrees of success: to give in to careless teenage cruelty; to avoid any contact with those beneath her on the social ladder, lest she be tainted by association; to emulate the lives of those who seem to have it better than she does, regardless of the cost; to dehumanise those who surround her by perceiving their troubles or their needs as not as real as her own.
Anya’s experience with Emily changes her exactly because she can see so much of herself in the story of the troubled ghost girl. As a result, she learns about thoughtfulness and empathy and the reality of everyone else’s inner world. Like the teenager that she is, she remains stranding the border between childhood and adulthood, but she takes a crucial step towards growing into the adult she’ll one day become.
They read it too:
YA Books Central Blog
Stainless Steel Droppings