Thursday, October 09, 2014
Reader's Diary #1073- Vera Brosgol: Anya's Ghost
I actually thought the two books ended up feeling very different from one another. There's a certain naive sweetness to Maggie of Friends with Boys that is lacking in Anya. Not that Anya isn't unlikeable, but there's a cynical edginess to her. As a teenager I think I would have related more to Anya. Plus, the significance of the ghost in Friends with Boys is less obvious than Anya's ghost who clearly provides the antagonist.
Anya is walking along one day, preoccupied with her frustrations, when she falls into a well. Here she meets a ghost girl named Emily who'd fallen in 90 years prior. Fortunately for Anya, her stint in the well isn't as long. Unfortunately for Anya, Emily hitches a ride out with her when Anya is rescued. At first it seems Anya has gotten a true friend out of experience, as Emily helps her cheat on tests, gives her boy advice, and so on. But before long, Casper the Friendly Ghost becomes Single White Female and Anya has a new problem on her hands.
Throughout the ordeal, Anya learns many valuable lessons: to appreciate her heritage, accept that nobody's life is perfect, the importance of being oneself, and so on. Despite that, the only message that I thought came on too strong was an anti-smoking message. Near the end Anya remarks, "I don't think I ever liked [smoking]. And it doesn't look as cool as I thought it did." It seemed more after-school special than the rest of the book. Otherwise the story just reads as a wonderful coming-of-age/ ghost story.
The illustrations seem simple on the surface. I thought the characters like something Charles Schulz would have done had he tried manga. But there are occasional glimpses of more complexity. I loved, for example, this scene where Anya is at a party and breaks the fourth wall, staring at the reader from the very center of the panel as if pleading with us to help her out of this awkward situation: