Jun 13, 2011

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

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.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

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 Ghost by Vera Brosgol

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.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

They read it too:
Stacked
YA Books Central Blog
Stainless Steel Droppings

(Yours?)

21 comments:

  1. I love the sound of this! You always find the best graphic novels that I end up wanting to read. After reading Vaclav and Lena, I am quite intrigued by stories about Russian /American families.

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  2. I've seen this one popping up a lot in the blogosphere, but this is the first time I've stopped to read a review. It looks and sounds great!!! Thanks for sharing several pics. The artwork is beautiful and one of those styles I really like and find myself sinking into.

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  3. Wonderful review, Nymeth. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I like the idea of the title referring not just to Emily, and you are quite right. Very observant. I'll be thinking about that the next time I read it through.

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  4. I love your perspective on this. This story is certainly more then meets the eye :D

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  5. The high school my son attended is in a university town, so there were a lot of foreign students in the population. I used to watch them struggle to fit in. What's funny, though, is they were great friends for American kids like my son who are non-comformists. This book sounds great to me!

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  6. This sounds very creative. I will be interested to see if I can find it in my library!

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  7. Ana, between you, Carl and Chris, I really want this book now! I guess I'm off to buy it. :-) First Second is such a creative indie press.

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  8. I am just getting into graphic novels, and have requested one by Shaun Tan and a few others from the library. It sounds like I might enjoy this one as well, and I really like the clean graphics on the illustrations that you shared with us. Sounds like a great book, and I am glad you enjoyed it!

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  9. Nymeth, You've got a knack for writing about graphic novels in a way that makes me desperately want to read them. (I bought Blankets a few weeks after your review.) I'm adding this one to my TBR as well.

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  10. I just heaved a very happy sigh. I am so glad you are back again, reading awesome graphic novels and writing about them. I missed you, lady! (I know I have said that like six times but it's still so true.)

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  11. Sounds like a good read. Graphic novels are not my favorite, but I do enjoy them on occasion.

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  12. Sounds great! Thanks for posting about it. I love graphic novels but i've only read a few of them. I never hear about the good ones...

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  13. Looks fantastic, I love the expressive drawing style :)

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  14. sounds so good. I've been wanting to read a graphic novel lately, this sounds like one to try.

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  15. I love the artwork. I don't miss the anxieties of being a teenager and trying to find a place where you fit. The added cultural difference would make it even more difficult. I'll definitely be reading this one.

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  16. Sounds great! Do i detect some Manga-ish influences in the artwork?

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  17. I knew I had to get this book after reading Carl's review. Now I know I have to have this book NOW. And I really think this is one that Annie will definitely enjoy every bit as much as I do. Heck, maybe even more, huh?

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  18. It sounds like a must read! I'm glad I read your review : I added this to my maybe-tbr-list the other day, but I had yet to read a review of it. I love when the drawing is expressive and this one seems to have a great story too. I'm moving it to my official TBR list, hopefully I can get my hands on it soon!

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  19. I want to read graphic novels but since I'm not very familiar with them I wasn't sure what to read...until now. I loved your review of this book, Thank you! Anya sounds wonderful and so human. I hope that her friendship with Emily helps her to understand herself more and like who she is. I'm very intrigued about this book!

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  20. I am curious about this book. My library doesn't have it, but I might need to change that. :)

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  21. I loved this book. I think what sold me was the way that they used the Russian "sirniki" in the breakfast scene. Having studied in Russia and lived with a host family, I saw the mother and thought that she was such an accurate portrayal of a Russian mother.

    Normally I don't read graphic novels, but I made an exception for this one. It was beautifully done.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.