Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol, for MMGM

Would you guys think me lacking in perception if I told you that I had no idea this was a graphic novel, til I opened it?  I picked it up at the library on a whim, because I liked the cover.  I may have flipped it over to glance at the back.  But, I suspect I fell prey to the perception which clouds any discussion of graphic novels–the one that says they’re less of a book, or not ‘real’ in the way others are.  Which is especially funny, given I’ve tried to push that perception back!

At any rate, here’s the cover that snagged my attention:

I’m glad I picked it up, as I found it to be funny, insightful, and a wonderful fusion of art and story.  It reminded me of the point in time when I first came across a picture book that wasn’t just a well-told story with art to accompany it, or an artistically designed book of pictures with text alongside, but a joining of the two mediums to tell a story that could not be told without the other.  I think in that case it was my first reading of Where the Wild Things Are, many, many years ago.

This story kind of felt like that–it wasn’t a comic or graphic novel ‘type’ of story, and yet was better off for having been told through this medium.

It’s the story of one Anya, who is Russian but doing her best to forget that.  She’s ditched the accent, learned the way of the people, and successfully blending in her high school, if not exactly thriving.  Unfortunately, she’s not happy with her blended status, and has picked up some bad habits such as smoking*, incessant negativity, and a healthy dose of truancy.

Then she falls down a hole in the middle of a lonely walk, in the park, and is stuck down there for two days…with no one for company but a ghost, who also fell down the hole some hundred or so years ago.  And is still there, obviously.  When she gets rescued, the ghost comes with her, and shennanigans ensue.

I’m hoping you’ll get the chance to read it, so that’s all I want to say.  There’s little else I can disclose without sharing spoilers.  Okay, except this: yes, she gets everything she wants (momentarily), yes, she grows and changes (fulfillingly), and yes, there’s a lovely plot twist that I did NOT see coming!

Now, let’s see what Apricot-kitty thought of it:

Apricot wise head tilt“An excellent example of wishing for that which you don’t really want, something we cats try to avoid.  Except in the matter of cat-nip.  And climbing too tall trees.  But, really, this is mostly a human concern, as the areas where you two-legs do this are too many to list!  Humans would be wise to read and write more books like this one.”






I’m glad Herself was feeling generous today, and ready to admit that cats DO occassionally make this mistake, as well.  It’s easy enough to think that our lives can be readily patched up and put in perfect working order if only we had [fill in the blank here], but of course, reality often proves otherwise.  Anya’s Ghost did a delightful job of exploring the kind of struggle that usually precedes true change, and why a ‘just fix this’ attitude rarely works!

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, spotlights, interviews and giveaways, stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog!

*And, in the mean time, I’m curious how you guys feel about the portrayal of a teen (albeit high school student) smoking, in a middle grade book.  In this case I didn’t have a problem with it, but I’m very interested to hear what you all think!



18 comments to Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol, for MMGM

  • Thanks so much for the review! I haven’t read many graphic novels.

  • I’ve never read a graphic novel. This one sounds like a good one and maybe different than many of the graphic novels out there.

    • Yes, this one would be a great one to start with! I’d also highly recommend The Secret World of Arrietty, though since it’s read in the Japanese style it takes a bit longer to orient oneself.

  • Very inventive story line. I’d like to read this one. The numerous listings for this book do classify it as YA (Ages 12-17), a level which allows for more mature topics. Smoking usually only appears in MG books through parents or an older sibling.

  • Interesting, since it was placed with the middle grades in our library. That recommended reading age is probably accurate, but I’m sure it’s one the middle school kids would love to read. And I think it would work great for most of them!

  • I was never a fan of graphic novels until I read El Deafo by Cece Bell (which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it). And I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing what you did. Picking up a book without realizing it was a graphic novel. They are usually quicker reads, just like verse novels! I’m intrigued by the plot twist you didn’t see coming. I love books that do that. As for the smoking… I’m not thrilled at the idea of a MG character smoking unless there’s a literary purpose for it. It certainly happens in real life, though (haven’t kids learned anything?).

  • Ah, no, I don’t think kids are quick to learn those kinds of lessons. However, the message this book sends in the end on that front is a net positive, I think.

    I’ll have to find El Deafo, and give it a try!

  • Sue Kooky

    This one sounds like something I would like to read! Thanks for reviewing!

    P.S. A teen smoking i a middle grade book is fine with me, I have friends who know people their age that smoke. It’s really sad. 🙁

  • Yes, because I did the same thing. Such a unique storyline. I am not a fan of graphic novels, but I may give this one a try. The themes are ones I like to focus on. I do think that graphic novels help encourage kids to imagine as much as they want about the story. Great review!

  • I read this book a year or so ago after the cover snagged my interest, and I really enjoyed it! Thanks for the review.

  • Yes–the cover is amazing! I love how it hints at the story challenges in such a clever and intriguing way. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • I love the premise of this one. I’ve greatly enjoyed the few graphic novels I’ve read so far, and I want to read more, so thanks for the recommendation!

  • You’ve really peaked my interest with this one. I love the ‘graphic novel’ type description. As far as a teen smoking in a middle grade book, hmm… I’m a firm believer in reality in fiction even when a book is fantasy based. I’d probably use a smoking reference sparingly, but if it fit the older character and added to an element of the story I was trying to get across then I think it’s okay.

  • Yeah, that’s about my take. After all, kids DO smoke. And, it is certainly not portrayed as a great idea!

    Hope you have the chance to pick it up, and enjoy!

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