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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost
Vera Brosgol
Release date: June 7th, 2011
from First Second

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part . . .
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.
Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

First I want to start with a HUGE THANK YOU to Ksenia of Polish Outlander for being awesomesauce and surprising me with a copy of this.

click to embiggen
I kind of don't know where to begin other than to say I fell in love with this.  The illustrations are just perfectly stylized and atmospheric, and incredibly expressive.  This probably has less text than any graphic novel I've ever read (entire pages go by with no words), and yet it doesn't lack for story.  It's always so clear and complete - I never felt it was lacking simply from not having a lot of text.  The story is fully there in the pictures, which not a lot of graphic novels pull off or even attempt.  Furthermore, her style was distinctive and memorable.  It reminded me somewhat of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis in the simplicity and almost cuteness of the black and white illustrations, but Brosgol has definitely put her stamp on it.

Beyond the fact that the illustrations are just perfect, the book works on so many levels.  Brosgol has a great sense of humor - in Anya and in the illustrations - that acts as a good counterpoint to the growing tension and unease regarding her ghost, Emily, who she meets when she falls down a well.

And speaking of Emily - oh, I loved her.  I mean, you don't ever not see what's coming with her (did that make sense?), but it's so delightful watching her morph from this little lonely ghost to this maniacal sort of poltergeist with a vengeance.  She's a sweet little nutjob, and I loved it.  And Brosgol's depiction of her and the way her character evolves as her story is slowly revealed is fantastic.

She goes from this:
to this:
to this:

and I loved every minute of it.  On that level, it was a great classic ghost story, a creepy story of control and obsession and longing.

But it's not just a ghost story.  Anya's Ghost is also a bit of a coming of age story, and an immigrant/Outsider story that makes Anya relatable and lovable (even when you want to smack her).
Brosgol created Anya's voice really well, and captured both her desire to be normal and mainstream as well as her awkwardness and insecurity and bitterness about what it means to actually be mainstream.

Do you ever have those books where, when you try to recommend them to someone, all you can come up with is "Just read it"?  I know I've kind of rambled, and just shoved pictures in your face, but - just read it.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. Some books are great, but hard to really describe WHY. This sounds awesome though. It took me a minute to realize the ghost is in Anya's hair on the cover. cute. The pictures made me think of Persepolis too. How exciting!


  2. This artwork, and the premise sound great! I do like the work that First Second does.

  3. I've heard good stuff about this one, and I love graphic novels. I think I'll just read this.

  4. This sounds awesome! I'm just starting to get more into graphic novels and this definitely sounds like one that would be a blast to read! I shall have to keep watch for a copy!

  5. I started reading this book at a bookstore. I didn't have time to finish it but I still cannot stop thinking about it.
    It's a very good read.

  6. It is a great book. At first you feel compassion for the ghost and really care about her until you realize who she really was and then you start feeling sad for Anya. It's about how sometimes we don't know how powerful we are until we're reminded of it by external factors. The lesson for Anya was that no matter how much you may hate your life it is yours to live and ultimately it falls upon you what you make of it. I really loved it.

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