First published in August 2012.
Hailed by prolific author Neil Gaiman as ‘a masterpiece’, Anya’s Ghost is Russian-American author Vera Brosgol’s first graphic novel.
High-school student Annushka Borzakovskaya, or Anya as she is more commonly known, is the main protagonist in Anya’s Ghost. On the first morning depicted in the novel, Anya decides not to go to school. She wanders through a secluded area where she slips and falls down a deep well. Here, she finds a skeleton. The ghost of a girl soon reveals herself and a stunned and disbelieving Anya supposes that the well must be filled with ‘some kind of hallucinatory methane or sulfur’ which is causing her to see things.
The ghost girl, trapped in the well for ninety years, is incredibly hurt when Anya seems intent on escaping. She is unable to stray far from her skeleton, but is able to follow Anya into the real world quite by chance when she is finally rescued. Despite Anya’s horror at this, she soon discovers the benefits of having her own ghost, one which is hidden from her peers.
The problems which befall teenagers of today have been included throughout the book. Anya herself is self-conscious, and has what she believes to be a severe lack of friends. Brosgol broaches such topics as being unpopular, being picked on, feeling shame towards your heritage or your family, and being perceived as ‘different’ by your peers.
Throughout, we meet many different characters – Anya’s mother and younger brother Sasha, the ‘awful little nerdy boy’ Dima, her rebellious friend Siobhan, and popular couple Elizabeth and Sean.
The ghost herself does introduce some historical information into the novel, and we as readers learn a lot about Anya and the ghost as the book progresses. The only real downside is that the ghost’s dialogue does seem a little too modern at times to be believable, but this does not really detract from the rest of the book.
The illustrations throughout, all printed in monochrome, are lovely. Brosgol has managed to evoke the world in which Anya lives, and she has made her character seem incredibly realistic. Anya has been wonderfully portrayed, and has been built up so realistically that she seems to jump from each page. Each scene in the book has clearly been carefully thought out, from Anya’s reluctance to eat an unhealthy meal with her family, to her meeting new people in and around her school. Some of the illustrations have been drawn using different perspectives, from looking directly at Anya to watching her from above as she walks to school. The dialogue throughout has been well thought out, and the words and pictures work incredibly well together. Not all of the pages in Anya’s Ghost contain speech, but the illustrations make it incredibly easy to follow the storyline regardless.
The bare bones of Anya’s Ghost are deceptively simple, but the story itself has been incredibly well fleshed out. The storyline itself is incredibly clever and the twists and turns which Brosgol has woven in from the outset leave the reader both intrigued and longing to know what happens next. The overall effect is as sweet as it is creepy.
Anya’s Ghost is a wonderful and accomplished debut, which uses a deceptively simple plot structure in which many smaller storylines are woven together to create a rich whole. The book is a must for any graphic novel fans, and a wonderful book for those interested in exploring the genre. The book itself is a work of art from cover to cover, and one which will grace any bookshelf.