Graphic Novel Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol


October 23, 2012 by Heidi

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol book coverTitle: Anya’s Ghost [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author/Illustrator: Vera Brosgol [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal
Published: June 7th, 2011 by First Second
Format: Paperback; 221 pages.
Source: Borrowed from Catie at The Readventurer.

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.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol is unlike any graphic novel I have read to date.  I’ve seen it around, but was more or less content to overlook it until it was literally placed in my hands.  A personal recommendation, a blurb by Neil Gaiman, and the prospect of discovering something new drew me in, and I gobbled down the wonder of Anya’s Ghost in little over an hour of reading time.

Anya’s Ghost tells the story of Anya, just your average high school girl struggling to fit in and learn to be comfortable in her own skin.  Her family immigrated to the US from Russia just before she started school, and she spent years getting rid of her accent and lying about her last name in order to blend in and keep herself from being mercilessly teased like the one other Russian kid at her high school.  When Anya falls down a well and spends two days with the ghost of a girl whose skeleton is her only company, she comes home with a new friend, and a new way to look at life.

Anya's Ghost panel by Vera Brosgol Anya’s Ghost is about learning to be comfortable in your own skin, embrace who you are, and love where you come from.  While Anya’s inevitable evolution as a character is fairly predictable, the route she takes to get there is fun, unique, and just a little bit scary.  I loved the story of Anya’s Ghost, and as the first real YA graphic novel I’ve ever read, I’m labeling it as a resounding success and just the type of thing I’ll have my eye out for more of.

Anya's Ghost panel by Vera BrosgolI’ve always been a bit biased against black and white art in graphic novels, as I haven’t been a big fan of the ones I’ve read (no, I haven’t read Sin City–I know it’s art is amazing, it’s on my shelf), but Vera Brosgol proved me completely and utterly wrong in Anya’s Ghost.  I loved her cartoony art that was on the one hand cutesy, but on the other hand the perfect creepy portrayal of the story at hand, and always expresive.  I appreciated the fact that Anya, who immigrated from Russia as a child, was a normal teenager.  She had weight problems (which were worse in her head than they were in real life), normal skin, normal hair–far from a Mary Sue.  It’s sometimes hard to believe characters in YA books are really as average as they’re described when all of these gorgeous guys are attracted to them–not so with Anya.  All of the characters were well done, particularly Emily (the ghost), and I love Vera’s style so much, I’d love to see more!  And you can, on her website, including some really awesome fan art of Katniss and Thessaly (the later from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman).

I wholeheartedly recommend Anya’s Ghost as a creepy but cute coming of age story, and hope to see more from Vera Brosgol in the future.  The story had surprising depth, the art never failed to capture the emotion of a scene, and even if someone never puts this book in your hands, I recommend you seek it out.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Yep!  Certainly.  Not only would I like to see more from Vera Brosgol, I’ll be looking for more graphic novels in this vein, as pretty much everything I’ve read thus far has been aimed at adults.

Recommended for:  
Reluctant teen readers (particularly good for girls), fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and anyone who enjoys a bit of a ghost story.

Get a second opinion:
The Readventurer – “This theme is nothing revolutionary, but the humor, the dash of the paranormal, and the fantastic artwork all contribute to the extraordinariness of this book. ”
Young Adult Anonymous – “Anya’s Ghost is a real keeper.”
Good Books and Good Wine – “It would also be a good book for people interested in trying graphic novels for the first time.”
Things Mean a Lot – “It’s difficult to pick the most impressive thing about Anya’s Ghost, but if I had to go with one it might be the expressiveness of Brosgol’s art.”
The Book Rat – “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”?”


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  1. This book featured on The Readventurer too and my curiosity was piqued but I really feel as if I’m missing out on something now. I’m not a huge graphic novel reader, but this one seems to be something I’d adore with it’s deeper meanings, so I’ll have to check it out ASAP! Wonderful review, Heidi! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I hope you do give it a shot, Keertana! This is an extremely accessible graphic novel that I feel will work for a lot of readers who don’t normally gravitate to that medium.

  2. Kim Baker says:

    I finally read this a few days ago, too! Must be the season, eh? I really enjoyed it, although I thought the self acceptance message was a little too heavy handed. Still, I liked it overall and I love her style. Can’t wait to se what she does next.

    • Heidi says:

      It is a great read for the season! I agree that the message did sort of hit you over the head, but her style was lovely. I’d love to see her do another graphic novel, I love her art!

  3. Hooray, I’m so glad you liked this one. What a perfect read for Halloween!

  4. Tara says:

    If you like this graphic novel, check out ANYTHING else by First Second. American Born Chinese is their best (I’m writing my retro review of it right now!), but I’ve really enjoyed everything to come out of that publishing house.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.