"review" · comics/graphic novels · concenter · fiction · horror/scary · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · young adult lit

{comic} anya’s ghost

This was another one where I had to wait to see first hand what all the fuss was about. [Winner of the 2011 Cybils Award for Graphic Novels (Young Adult) and is on the 2012 YALSA (Top 10) Great Graphic Novels for Teens]. The patience and persistence was worth it. Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost really is a fun read.

There is nothing ‘ground-breaking’ in finding Anya’s Ghost. Fans of Hope Larson and Faith Erin Hicks will have wondered what the fuss was all about. Girl-centric, humorous, with accessible art? Brosgol is a delightful addition to Larson, Hicks, and Raina Teglemeier.

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. –Publisher’s Comments

Not unlike most American teenagers, Anya just wants to fit in, but Anya is dealing with the extra burden carried by her (relatively) recent immigration from Russia. She was made fun of as a new addition in her earlier years and has since developed a hyper-consciousness regarding her diet and her accent—and her image. It runs her life, and to self-destructive ends. Add a ghost who is not as she seems and Brosgol creates a darkling teenage drama manifesting itself as a good haunting.

Just where do the ideas of beauty and normality come from in our culture, or any culture for that matter; and what desires have withstood the test of time?

“Oh, Anya! Let’s have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason!”

The morals (and allegory) in the story cannot go unnoticed, but they are not heavy-handed. Brosgol creates some marvelous characters, Anya being central. When Anya is later accused of being incredibly self-absorbed and awful, the Reader has a hard time disagreeing, but she is never so unlikable as to create disinterest. We can blame much of this on Brosgol’s sense of humor. Anya is self-deprecating (though often earnest with her poor self-image). And however foolish, she is not a complete idiot. Yep, outward appearances should not be believed. Nice girls can be pathetic and tough girls misunderstood. And boys? Nerds are gold and that handsome basketball hero with a sexy name? Yeah.

“I could lose myself forever in that dark hair and those sweet love handles.”

A big response to the book has been Brosgol’s illustration and her ability to use it rather ideally to storytell. Hell yes! Her panel sequences bely a great sense of comedic and dramatic timing. There are playful moments and Brosgol is artful in her use of page and panel composition. She isn’t text heavy, which is a realization that came late for me. A lot of text boxes and bubbles is always noticeable to me, and I come to expect it a lot, I guess. The light use in flipping through the book is obvious—and in reading the book it is a credit. In Anya’s Ghost you really are reading a comic book, and less of an illustrated story or picture book.


recommendations…I mentioned a few authors at the beginning and if you’re a fan of their’s, this book is an easy sell. If you are unfamiliar with them, but are a fan of Anya’s Ghost, check them out. This is a good Teen read, comic book reader or no. More targeted toward girls, but not exclusionary by any means. A good immigrant story; and a good ghost story.

of note… it has some really sweet moments and details (like the little brother’s shirt), and while the story feels familiar in look and subject, it certainly is not to be mistaken; Vera Brosgol has a great style and voice all her own and I’m looking forward to her next book.


Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

First Second Books, 2011

hardcover, 221 pages.

{images are Vera Brosgol’s} can find more images here.

2 thoughts on “{comic} anya’s ghost

  1. This is such a great book… I don’t read many graphic novels, but this one sucked me in from the moment that I picked it up. Brosgol definitely got the Russian mother thing down perfectly.

  2. And I didn’t have to wait long (referring to my comment on Goodreads). I somehow hit this one right when it was coming out and LOVED it. It was a nearly perfect read for me and was one of my favorites for the year. I always know when something registers with me because I find myself stalking the artist online and if they are the kind of person that sells stuff, my wallet starts becoming lighter. Thus was the case with Brosgol. You are right in that the story doesn’t break any ground, but the art (whatever one would call this style) is to die for and the story is structured very tightly from a visual standpoint. I have since bought a few prints from Brosgol as well as an autographed version of Anya’s Ghost. I like this style of art in general but there was something about Brosgol’s that just struck a nerve, or I should say “strikes” a nerve because I still follow her regularly on Twitter and love checking out any new art she posts.

    Glad you enjoyed it even if it didn’t ‘wow’ you at quite the same level. I’ve enjoyed Larson’s stuff too and will have to check out the other artists you mentioned.

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