Anya’s Ghost

Posted January 18, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 10 Comments

All of the covers from :01 First Second have a similar feel.

Anya’s Ghost
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.


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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10 responses to “Anya’s Ghost

  1. I should definitely check out some more First Second books. Level Up was amazing and a perfect pick for someone I know (very relevant to him, actually), even if it did play a tug-of-war with its own story. Anya’s Ghost sounds like a fun read.

    • Miss Anderson

      If you liked Level Up, you should definitely try American Born Chinese. My students love it, and adults like it just as much.

  2. Too bad the author jumped away from the main story line in this one. I was really drinking in your review until I read that! Thanks for the honest heads-up. We owe you, Miss Anderson!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. I am really trying to read more graphic novels…actually, I’ve never read one, but I’d like to get into them. I’ll definitely check out that publisher. Thanks!

    • Miss Anderson

      There are many great, great selections from this publisher. You should definitely check them out! Americus is next on my list, whenever I can get it, because it’s about a censorship in a high school!

  4. Wow they just made the value of good old fasioned non computerized car’s gp up a whole lot. I am really loving my 66 chevelle right now.

  5. Got these boots for Christmas for the wife and she loved them fit very nice and didn’t look huge, material is tough but not recommend for snow even tho they are made for winter Leaves water stains on the boot but there is a cleaning kit that you can purchase to keep them in good shape if you get them dirty and if you have a dog/cat they are slobber and hair magnets

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