Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Anya's Ghost

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Anya's Ghost (First Second, 2011).

Here's an unexpectedly fun little book. It kept me utterly absorbed for about an hour, watching the grouchy, not-quite-fit-in Anya deal with rough teenage angst. An immigrant at a "lower tier private school" (a perfect description by an Amazon.com reviewer that I'm not going to better), Anya is out of place, drifting and uncomfortable with both her heritage and her body.

An accident sees Anya stumbling upon a nearly century-old skeleton and a lonely ghost who can't move very far from her body, but taking a bone from the corpse's finger lets her bring the ghost home with her. Over time, the ghost is revealed to be a bit more than someone in whom Anya can confide. What seems like understandable ignorance of 21st Century culture is revealed to have more malice than Anya thought, and it isn't long before Anya realizes that her new "friend" has decades of issues to work out...

This is the debut work by Vera Brosgol and I really enjoyed it. I don't think that it really pushes against boundaries or expectations very much. Like a TV movie, there is an economy of speaking parts, so that every character in the narrative has a role to play beyond their introduction. Working within that framework, it tells a good story quite competently, with a wonderful sense of flair and design.

I like the way that the characters look - there's a clear influence from Bryan Lee O'Malley and Faith Erin Hicks - and I like how they interact with their environment. Most impressive is the way that Bosgol subverts the natural sympathy readers will have over the ghost, Emily, and her ugly demise in the 1910s. Just because Emily died young and just as lonely as Anya doesn't necessarily make her a good person or a worthwhile friend. A pleasantly surprising and recommended read.

No comments: