Brosgol, V. (2011). Anya’s Ghost. New York, NY: First Second.
Plot Summary: Anya accidentally falls down a well and is trapped there for two days with the ghost of a girl who fell down the well while running away from the man who killed her family. She promises to tell someone about the bones at the bottom when she is rescued but forgets. She soon discovers that Emily, the ghost, has followed her home thanks to the finger bone Anya accidentally took with her when she was rescued. At first the girls get along great Emily helps Anya in school and even gets her to go to a party with the boy she has a crush on. At the party Anya discovers that the boy she likes is a total jerk when he is drunk and loses interest in him but Emily is obsessed with him. Anya decides to leave her at home and goes to investigate more about Emily’s death hoping to distract her with information about her family’s murder. Instead she discovers Emily died fleeing after she murdered the boy she had a crush on and his girlfriend. When Anya confronts Emily she discovers Emily has hidden her bone so Anya can not get rid of her. Emily also starts threatening Anya’s family unless Anya does what she wants and lets Emily live vicariously through her. Anya recovers the bone and confronts Emily one last time before throwing the bone back into the well.
Critical Evaluation: The artwork in the book is well done the pictures are done in black and white and Emily is rendered as white and grey giving her the ghostly look of negative space. The layout is very simply done and easy to follow so even readers who have not picked up a graphic novel before should have no problem following along. The main character Anya is very relate-able she is not very popular, is self conscious about her thighs, and overall comes across as very normal. She is also a Russian immigrant which she tries to hide throughout the story going to great lengths to avoid another more recent Russian immigrant at her school named Dima. There is a scene where Dima is helping her look for information on the murder of Emily’s family where she opens up to Dima about why she avoids him that shows some great character depth to Anya. There is also a good amount of foreshadowing in the book implying that Emily is not who she says she is. Throughout the story she often makes Anya uncomfortable but talks her into following her lead. For example in school Emily climbs into the boy Anya likes backpack and learns about the party his friend is having and tells Anya what to say to get invited. Once she is invited Emily pressures Anya into wearing an outfit she is uncomfortable in and only gets more controlling from there. Overall this is an interesting story that is especially great for readers just getting into graphic novels.
Reader’s Annotation: When Anya falls down a well she is surprised to meet a ghost and even more surprised when she follows her home.
Author Information: Vera Brosgol was born in Russia like Anya and moved to the United States when she was five. Anya’s Ghost is her first graphic novel but she has done illustrations for many different companies including Nickelodeon and Simon & Schuster
Curriculum Ties: This would be a great graphic novel to use in the classroom as an introduction to graphic novels due to the simple but interesting style of the novel.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) Did you suspect Emily was lying about how she ended up in the well and if so when?
2) Why was Anya so hard on Dima?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for ages 12-17. This seems appropriate as the style is a little more simple which allows it to appeal to younger readers as well as older teens who are just getting into graphic novels. Overall I think the story is interesting for any reader in that age range.
Challenge Issues: The story does deal with a murder however it is not actually shown. You see Emily strike the match and the building on fire but it does not actually depict anyone burning to death. The book also has many great reviews.
Why is it included?: I think this is a great graphic novel for teens just starting to read graphic novels as it has a simple and easy to follow format while still featuring a main character teens will relate to and an interesting story line.