Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol, Anya’s Ghost is … actually difficult to pin down into one category really. I’ll let the neat book trailer introduce it first:
Okay, it is most definitely a ghost story (the title makes that fairly obvious I guess), but is it a ghost story first and foremost? No. I would hesitate to say that. It’s actually more like … if Mean Girls met Casper the Friendly Ghost? Maybe? Kinda? Well, whatever you want to call it, in the end, what I can say for certain is that Anya’s Ghost is 100% awesome.
Anya herself is an interesting character to meet. Her peers are apathetic creatures for the most part and her friends are largely, well, non-existent. Like most teenagers, she feels like the outsider looking in, but given that she is from Russia, she thinks she has to try extra hard to fit in. (She’s not wrong.) Also, she’s not the skinniest (she feels), nor the most attractive (she feels), nor the brightest (again, that’s debatable). So, when Emily drifts into her life, Anya seems to get a kick out of having an invisible friend who can tip the scales in her favour. Anya now has a secret power of sorts, and she uses this power as often as she can- until Anya realises that Emily would like something in return. *suspenseful music plays in the background*
I’m sensing a pattern in the kind of horror/gothic books that I’ve been recommending lately. I think I’m starting to love scary stories that alert me to how scary real life actually is. And Brosgol is just so good at that. I mean, she slips in some pretty heavy issues that teenagers often deal with alongside the mystery that is Emily’s past. Issues like agency, independence, self-respect, substance abuse, as well as eating disorders, are either mentioned or actually focussed on in a rather non-judgemental manner. And once the ghost story takes back the spotlight … Well, I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but let’s just say that the ultimate showdown has as much to do Anya’s inner demons as it has to do with her outer ones.
Oh, and I cannot believe I haven’t mentioned the artwork yet! Vera Brosgol is an artist I had already encountered through a blog she shares with another comic artist I love. I believe Brosgol’s art speaks for itself– it can be cute and terrifying at the same time (as it should for this particular book). It also adds layers of meaning to her story, which is not just a thing I feel required to say due to the medium employed, but because one of the remarkable things about Anya’s Ghost is the number of panels that don’t have words and yet carry so much depth.
All in all, I think it was quite a charming read. A simple story, perfectly executed, and will stay with me for a long, long while.
Why You May Like It: It’s a comic. The artwork is lovely. It’s a fast read. And it’s properly chilling towards the end. It’s good for people who: don’t want to drown in fantasy / are hesitant about gore and murder but like a scary twist once in a while / like comics / are reluctant readers.
Why You May Not Like It: Probably because of the reasons I mentioned above?
All Hallow’s Read? Oh, yes, most definitely. I myself am getting ready to mail this one out to a friend.
[EDIT: I forgot to mention that the book was published in 2011, and that the copy is my own, until I mail it out.]