The supercool cover for Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol was the first thing that caught my eye. The lovely little quote from Neil Gaiman ("A MASTERPIECE!") was the second. After taking these in, I promptly devoured Anya's Ghost in one sitting. I didn't mean to, but, after a certain point it is very hard to put down. I love the ghost story aspect of the novel and think that definitely makes it a standout on the shelf, but honestly, I would have read a book about Anya, Siobhan, Dima and Sasha even without the supernatural spice. Anya Borzakovskaya is an underperforming, apathetic scholarship student at Hamilton High School, trying not to stand out any more than she thinks she already does. She has shed her accent and the hand-me-down clothes that were a necessity when her single mother first moved her family from Russia to the United States. She actively avoids Dima, the other Russian immigrant who is too "fobby" to be seem with. Anya's only bright moments seem to be when she is sharing a smoke with her acerbic, abrasive friend Siobhan.
Even though I know Siobhan is a girl's name, I had to keep flipping back to her image in the novel because she looks so much like a boy. While I love all of Brosgol's characters, I think Siobhan may be my favorite. A matter of a few black line of varying thickness, Siobhan has a thousand words worth of character in her. This is what I love about graphic novels, the way that a character can be created with what seems like a few strokes. The only personal thing that we learn about Siobhan is that she is from an Irish family and has a pack of brothers, but the way she is drawn and the few things she says invite the reader to imagine so much more. I would love to see Siobhan with a graphic novel of her own.
What starts off as a seemingly normal day for Anya - mom's greasy (insert Russian word that I do not have the special characters for here), embarrassment at the bus stop and a fight with Siobhan ends with her at the bottom of a well with a skeleton. Calm at first, Anya decides to enjoy a smoke (basically the only reason I gave Anya's Ghost TEEN rather than a MIDDLE GRADE reading level). Through the haze, she sees the ghost of a girl her age emerge from the bones. Skeptical and standoffish at first, Anya begins talking to the ghost. Sharing information about what life is is like now, some ninety years after the girl fell down the well, Anya treats the ghost much like she treats her annoying little brother Sasha. Nevertheless, the ghost wakes Anya when she thinks she hears a person passing by the opening to the well.
Rescued, thanks to the ghost, Anya promises to make sure her bones receive a proper burial. But, that's not the last Anya will see of the ghost, Emily. When Anya returns to school, Emily is there with her, helping her with tests, encouraging her to talk to a popular guy she has a crush on and telling her how to dress. It all seems harmless at first, but when Anya begins to get suspicious she learns the real reason Emily died and how hard it will be to get rid of her ghost.
Don't want to ruin any of the suspense, so I won't say anymore about the story. I hope that I have given you enough of a taste to make you want to buy and read Anya's Ghost!
Vera Brosgol is a fabulous artist and, for those of you who also love her style and love style in general, don't miss this cool sartorial experiment, Draw This Dress. Along with her friend, Emily Carroll, author of the superbly creepy graphic novel story collection, Through the Woods, the two are "interpreting photos of outfits into drawings of outfits." I love all of them, but the dress and drawing below is definitely one of my favorites.