Alienation, an unsolved murder, and a ghost who is not-so-friendly are the subject matters of Anya’s Ghost, by the extraordinary author/illustrator Vera Brosgol, for First Second (:01). Anya is like any typical teenager–well, any who are embarrassed by their families, are self-conscious about their bodies, and have a hard time trying to fit in at school. Oh, and like any who have desperately worked at getting rid of their Russian accents, so they can fit in better, and any who have fallen down wells and are forced to spend several hours with a skeleton (and ghost) of a murdered teen girl as her only companion. And then, when the ghost follows her home, and asks for help in solving her murder, and starts interfering with Anya’s love life, what’s a girl to do? So much for “fitting in”…..
What would it be like having a ghost for a friend? Would it be cool, or would it suck? The ghost of Emily Reilly can’t leave her bones behind to escape the well, but she is able to follow Anya to her home because when Anya is gathering her stuff and putting it into her backpack when she’s rescued, she accidentally also scoops up one of Emily’s finger bones. At first, Emily is an unexpected help to Anya, going around the class during a test Anya has not studied for, scoping out answers, and whispering them to Anya. Emily relates that she, herself, has not had much success in love, and that her boyfriend died around the time of WWI, but she does tell Anya what to say to Sean that gets her invited to a party he’s going to. Unfortunately, it’s also with his girlfriend, and Anya rides in the backseat.
Anya’s mother, like all mothers, wants only what’s best for her daughter, so she sends her to a private school where immigrants of many other countries are enrolled. Unfortunately, she also feeds her fattening though delicious fried foods, oblivious to Anya’s desire to be thin and possibly more attractive to boys like Sean. One of her best friends in Siobhan, a teen from Ireland. He smokes, and has got her to also smoke, and they sometimes both cut Economics and Gym class together. Other than that, in general, he is a nice guy she likes to spend time with, but they are not romantically involved with each other. Instead, she has a major crush on one of the school’s athletic heartthrob types, Sean, who already has a girlfriend. Anya still has hopes of making an impression on him, but how?
Another interesting character, Dima, is a geeky guy who just recently immigrated to America from Russia. He has not lost his accent yet, and his world seems to revolve around getting good grades. He gets picked on, and beaten up daily. Siobhan messes with Anya about Dima, referring to him as her “boyfriend.” He envies Anya, and confides in her that what he’d like most of all is to be more American, like she is, and to fit in. Anya doesn’t believe she fits in at all, but she can’t help but feel sorry for Dima. He later aids her immensely when she goes to the library to research old newspaper files on murders, to see if she can find out more information to track down Emily’s murderer. He knows how to access the microfilm files the library has of the town’s older newspapers, and they both look through them.
Emily has told Anya that her parents were very trusting, and would let drifters sometimes sleep in their barn. One summer, a drifter they especially trusted and even let come into their house and eat dinner with them, murdered them during the night. She heard what was going on, and saw her parents’ dead bodies, and the drifter chased after her with a knife. That is when she met her ultimate end, and wound up down a well, dead herself. But, what Dima and Anya read about in the old newspaper files contradicts Emily’s story, and Anya learns that Emily is not at all the friendly sort of ghost…but, I won’t tell you what Anya finds out; you’ll just have to read this great graphic novel yourselves to discover that!
Graphic novels like Anya’s Ghost keep gaining in popularity. It’s no wonder, when there are so many talented authors and illustrators around, like Vera Brosgol, and wonderful publishing companies like First Second (:01) devoted to providing fans of graphic novels with high quality editions that people will be proud to own. If you’re a fan of graphic novels that combine mysteries with a touch of the supernatural, then you’re sure to want to add Anya’s Ghost by Vera Bosgol to your reading lists!