Thursday, 30 January 2014

Graphic Novel: Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost: "...brilliantly illustrated in a way which makes it impossible not to connect with the characters."

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya's Ghost tells the story of Anya Borzakovskaya, a Russian girl growing up in America.  Her life takes a twist one day when she falls down a well and meets a ghost called Emily, and after an initial tentative start they then go on to become friends.

The theme of ghosts in fiction is hardly a new idea and yet the concept behind Anya's Ghost manages to come across as fresh and unique.  It's also a creatively concocted story, with lots of cool ideas and twists.  I have to admit that when the main twist arrived it took the plot in a direction away from the storyline I expected and hoped for, but within a few pages I was drawn into the story even more and the unexpected developments definitely crank up the intrigue and drama.

The author, Vera Brosgol's, own life mirrors the basic outline behind Anya* in that she was born in Russia but grew up in the US, so that probably helps explain why some of the emotions Anya describes about growing up as a Russian in America and feeling like an outsider, feel so genuine and believable.

* Apart from the bit about the ghost, presumably.

However, Anya's Ghost is a story which will appeal to a broad selection of readers, as most of the problems and worries which Anya experiences relate to subjects which all high school students (or ex-students) will identify with, such as worrying about her image and wanting to fit in.  There are other layers to the story of course, such as the supernatural aspect of having a ghost as a friend, and also Anya's own investigations into Emily's life when she was alive, but at its heart are story elements which most readers will identify with.


Just as strong as the storyline is the artwork which really brings the characters and the story alive.  Vera Brosgol uses an innocent and simple style of artwork which is very appealing and perfectly suited to the story.  The facial expressions of Anya and Emily in particular are brilliantly illustrated in a way which makes it impossible not to connect with the characters and the range of emotions they experience.

Anya's Ghost is a book which had me hooked within a few pages and it's a story I'd love to see made into a movie.  I'm not usually a big fan of supernatural fiction, but in this case Vera Drosgol has focused as much if not more on the actual character and personality behind Emily, rather than just the fact that she's a ghost.  For that reason I suspect that although Anya's Ghost will especially appeal to teenage girls, other readers like myself who wouldn't usually go for this type of book will also be won over by the clever intriguing storyline and the appealing emotionally expressive artwork.

Anya's Ghost won several awards, including an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Young Adults and a Harvey Award for Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers, and you can find it on Amazon at the following links:
UK:  Anya's Ghost
US:  Anya's Ghost

Check out Vera Drosgol's website:

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