by Vera Brosgol
:01 First Second
Library book from Junior Library Guild
[#8 in my 75 book challenge]
I used to say that I wasn’t a reader of graphic novels, but I think that has changed. I’ve tried really hard to read as many as I can over the past year because my students are so in love with them. One thing I’ve learned is that I think I love First Second publishers. The graphic novels that come from this publisher have depth and appeal to teens that want a stand-alone YA graphic novel. If you are interested in their catalog of books, you can view it here (they published American Born Chinese, Level Up, Friends With Boys, and Americus).
So what is Anya’s Ghost about? Anya is a Russian girl trying to fit in to American culture. She’s been fairly successful at losing her accent and being “American,” but she’s also bitter, angsty, and totally in love with a dreamboat jock. When Anya falls into an old well, she meets the ghost of a girl who had died there a hundred years before — and takes the ghost home with her. Anya and the ghost, Emily, become friends and partners in crime…until Anya tries to solve the mystery of Emily’s murder and realizes that something isn’t right.
I loved Anya. She’s a curvy girl and she had a great character transformation throughout the novel. The story itself was actually downright creepy at moments (thanks for that, Vera). Like American Born Chinese, it really speaks to the teenage need to fit in, and this theme can extend beyond differences of culture to all differences that teens struggle with in high school. Anya’s voice in the novel is snarky, which will also appeal to teens. Consider these quotes from Anya’s snarky daydream about her jock-tastic crush boy:
“Oh, Anya! Let’s have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason!”
“I could lose myself forever in that dark hair and those sweet love handles”
The book fell short for me in terms of consistency and the ending. Near the end, the story took a sudden jump from the direction it was going and become a horror novel, but only for a few pages. This jump left some of the characters and sub-plots in the dust, not giving them a satisfying ending. Perhaps that’s just life, there’s always a loose end, but in this novel it forced me to bump it down a grade.
Final Grade: C I enjoyed it, I really did. It’s average because I enjoy most of the books I read (I wouldn’t finish them if I didn’t like them, right?). Of course this book definitely belongs in my library because my students will like it. They won’t care about the loose ends. It’s worth a read, and it’s a quick one at that. I have seen Anya’s Ghost on some Printz-hopeful lists this year, but I don’t think it will hold up in the intense discussions that the committee has behind those closed doors. Maybe an honor medal? In my mind it just doesn’t compare to American Born Chinese, which won the Printz 2007 and was delightfully complex.