Sunday, December 11, 2011

GN Review -- Anya's Ghost / Vera Brosgol

You'd think with all the endlessly tiring focus on supernatural teen dramas these days, that anymore work on the subject would come off as bland just for sheer overkill. To anyone who says that about comic books, I might humbly recommend they check out a copy of Anya's Ghost. Featuring a girl and her ghost type of narrative, it proves to be a good example of good writing and art being able to stand above the general malaise of an over-saturated market.

The story centers around Anya, a teenage girl with an abundance of insecurities, be they about her body image, her Russian heritage, or her hopeless crush on one of the popular boys. When she falls down a well for two days, she is kept company by the ghost of a young girl who died there nearly a century ago. She is eventually rescued, and soon after discovers the ghost is following her around, apparently due to Anya sweeping one of her bones into her bag before she was rescued.

Anya quickly realizes that having an intangible friend around can be very useful. The ghost, named Emily, can give her answers on tests, keep lookout for Anya's smoke breaks, and a host of other tasks she is quick to take advantage of. The two girls start to bond, even to the detriment of her relationships with others in Anya's life. Eventually Anya starts to realize this, as well as Emily's growing obsession with living her life through Anya, and resolves to rid herself of Emily, who won't be so easily cast aside, setting up a harrowing and emotional conflict for the two girls.

This is a thoroughly entertaining story. It starts off as a somewhat typical ghost encounter story, with Anya meeting Emily in the well, and unknowingly spiriting her into her life. The narrative then takes a lighter tone as the two main characters' friendship begins to blossom. As things gradually become more serious, you can feel the tension rising, as Emily's lies are uncovered, Anya's realizations about herself through Emily's obsession with her life come to light, and things go from suspenseful to genuinely scary, to surprisingly touching at the story's climax.

The characters were also well written. Anya felt very real, from her believable flaws to her teenage snark and keen obsession with how she is perceived by her peers. She goes from a shy, self-conscious wall flower to a more confident, well-adjusted young woman through a series of encounters and discoveries she makes about others, often with Emily's help. Her growth throughout the story feels natural and genuine, and she has a wonderful foil in ghostly Emily, who is also extremely well done. She is pitiable, scary, and vulnerable, sometimes all at once, and it's a tribute to Brosgol's deft characterization that she comes off so well.

The artwork was also very enjoyable. The cartoony style is expressive and clear, and reminds me a good deal of Raina Telgemeier's work. Nothing is glossed over or missed, and it does a good job of fitting into the alternately light, serious, and scary moods through which the story takes the reader.

I enjoyed this story the entire way through as I read it, and think it would be a good work for teens to take a look at. It would also appeal to anyone looking for a sprinkling of the supernatural in their teen dramas, but certainly also for anyone who just enjoys good graphic novels. Anya's Ghost definitely delivers as plain good storytelling. Highly recommended.

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