Saturday, March 17, 2012

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (my first foray into the world of graphic novels)

One of my goals in rebooting this blog is to broaden my reading habits a bit. I love romance.  That will never change.  Why should it?  Whether it is contemporary, suspense, paranormal, historical, or some other flavor, I just love it.  I do venture outside the genre on occasion and would like to do so more often.

To that end I tried something completely new to me.  My boyfriend is a big fan of manga, comics and graphic novels. He talks to me about the ones he is reading and I have begun to develop an appreciation for the genre.  I have been thinking of dipping my toes in the water and was given a perfect opportunity.  The art teacher at my school is, not surprisingly, a huge fan of the genre.  He and I often talk during our prep periods since my desk is housed in his classroom. He is wonderfully patient to share his space with me since I am “on a cart” at my school.  He is also wonderfully generous and lent me a graphic novel. I don’t think he could have picked a better book for me to start with. He definitely had paid attention to types of movies and entertainment I talked about. 

Title: Anya's Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Format: hardcover

As a newbie to the genre this book was perfect. Not only is it a standalone so that I didn’t feel like I was getting into a commitment with a long series, but the story was great.  What I loved is that the characters are so real. Forget about the ghost for a moment.  The main character, Anya, was so much like some of my old students that it was scary. Anya is a fairly well-adjusted teen with your basic self-image problem.  She fears growing round and cuddly like her adorable Russian immigrant mother.  She wants to catch the attention of the super cute sporty boy, but is disgusted with herself for being so typical as to be crushing on the popular boy. One who is, “the kind of boy teen movies tell you to like.”  I have taught this girl. Hell, in many ways I was that girl. She is awkward, though not a nerd. She is neither cool nor an outcast.  She and her friends exist in the middle ground that so many of us were part of.  Basically she is a realistic teen character.

The cast of secondary characters is great. Anya’s mom is flighty. English is her second language which causes little misunderstandings.  She is studying for the US citizenship test. Anya is proud of her mom for doing this and helps her to study.  Her mom believes that Benjamin Franklin was once president.  When corrected she declares that had he been president maybe our country wouldn’t be so messed up.  She is wonderfully round and comforting, a mother who would have snuggled her kids and wiped their tears away with her sleeve.

Siobhan, Anya’s best friend is this very androgynous tomboy who can talk Anya into all kinds of mischief.  Smoking in the school bathroom? Check. Climbing out the window during an incredibly boring lecture? Check!  Another classmate, Dima, is everything Anya fears people see her as: a geeky immigrant who can’t navigate the social niceties of him new home country. Then there is the ghost.  At first she seems to be a fairly sweet girl with a sad story.  I won’t give details so as not to spoil the story, but let’s just say that all is not what it seems. 

This book does more than tell the story of Anya meeting a ghost. It is so much more.  This is a beautiful story of family dynamics, friendship, the longing for acceptance, and personal evolution. Anya’s eyes are opened throughout the story. She is forced to see past the social mask of her peers. She develops a stronger sense of self and a deeper appreciation for the friends in her life. You put the book down at the end and feel that the character is going to continue forward as a better version of herself. 

I HIGHLY recommend Anya's Ghost to both experienced and virgin graphic novel readers. The wonderful style of Ms. Brosgol's art is clean and fresh, paring with the text in a way that makes it a bit magical. Go! Buy it! You will love this book.


naida said...

Thats good that you went outside yoru regular genres and explored a graphic novel. I haven't read any yet, but this one sounds very good.
Wonderful review, I do like the premise of this story.

Nicola O. said...

It's really good to have you back! enjoyed this review a lot.

Samantha said...

This looks great! I love the artistic style in the images you posted. I'll have to add it to my list. I've recently started getting back into graphic novels. I'm working my way through Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Scott Pilgrim, and the Fables series.