Vera Bosgol's graphic novel Anya's Ghost is a tale of an angst-ridden, curvy teenage girl who attends Catholic school. Her family's from Russia, although her years of time in ESL have trained her to abandon her embarrassing accent in order to fit in with her peers. A fellow classmate, Dimi, is also from Russia, but his shameless love of his culture--along with his large glasses, funny haircut, and general dorkiness--earn him regular beatings at school. Anya has done everything in her power to avoid this, including refusing to eat the greasy Russian treats her mom fries up in the morning. While her brother bounces around, eagerly awaiting his delicious meal, Anya is clearly above this sort of behavior.
The story begins with Anya walking to school and encountering her boyish friend Siobhan (more specifically her only friend), who pesters Anya for cigarettes and becomes angry when she is offered none. Infuriated by this argument, Anya storms away into a nearby forest on her own. Unfortunately, an open well goes unnoticed and she falls into it. She amazingly winds up with nothing worse a sprained wrist, but now she has concerns whether she will be rescued from the bottom of the well. A skeleton is her only companion deep in the well--that is until a homely ghost named Emily greets her. Emily tells Anya she has been trapped in the well for ninety years after a gruesome murder. The reason she never tried to escape can be attributed to her pile of bones, which she can never depart from.
After being rescued, Anya reluctantly allows Emily to be her friend by wearing a small finger bone around her neck. She quickly discovers the benefits of having a ghost as a friend, however, as Emily can sneak answers from classmates' tests and peek into the locker of a handsome boy to find his schedule. As the story moves along, their relationship changes, and so does Anya. Ultimately, Anya must make a major decision regarding Emily.
Although Emily claims she had a fiancé before her death, this is rather hard to believe: the character is clearly drawn as if she's an eleven-year-old girl who has yet to reach the puberty stage. Her large and poofy bob, schoolgirl jumper, and noticeably flat chest only emphasize this. But apparently the author had a different (and confusing) idea for her age. Regardless of this minor flaw, Brosgol has drawn Anya's Ghost impeccably and with great care. It's not surprising she was a storyboard artist for the film Coraline, as the entire graphic novel could essentially serve as a storyboard for an animated film--not to mention several similarities with Gaiman's story.
Brosgol's impressive storytelling skills seamlessly weave through moments of being touching, funny, and thrilling. The genre is difficult to pinpoint, as it has elements of horror, drama, coming-of-age, comedy, and more. Anya's weight troubles, crush on the popular basketball star, and awkward attempts to blend into society may especially resonate with young women, but regardless of age or gender, this is a book that will be enjoyed by many. With hints of Coraline, American Born Chinese, and perhaps even Persepolis, Anya's Ghost is already destined to be an essential on the library of every graphic novel fan--and hopefully beyond that. Anya's Ghost won't take the average reader very long to read, but it's worth every single penny.