Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera BrosgolI’ve always had an odd relationship with graphic novels. My first was Arkham Asylum, which set the bars for both writing and art quite high, and for a long time, the only graphic novels I went out of my way to collect were, well, collections — bound copies of comics I’d already read, in one nice convenient volume so I could leave the individual comics at rest in their bags and boxes. I knew, of course, that excellent writers were out there, producing excellent graphic novels, but somehow I just kinda skipped them, in a very “I always meant to read…” kind of way.
When I found out Neil Gaiman blurbed how much he loved Vera Brogol’s Anya’s Ghost, I decided to dip a toe back into the GN pool. Well, if there are more out there of the quality of this haunting, touching and beautifully-illustrated story, I’ll be jumping in headfirst.
The story is, in its own way, a classic ghost story, in that there is a restless spirit, an unsolved mystery involving her, and the haunting itself. It hits all the major points we expect in our ghost stories, with delightful twists and modern turns to make things both timeless and relevant. As for the protagonist, I found Anya to be very easy to identify with, having once been the disaffected weird girl who had a hard time in high school; I suspect a lot of readers will find themselves similarly sympathizing. Anya was petulant in the way teenagers can be but not annoyingly so; as an adult reader, that mattered to me. There are a lot teen protagonists out there that I find myself wanting to smack, quite frankly, but not so with Anya. Brosgol’s creation is written and drawn so well that it was easy to feel for Anya. It was easy, for me, to remember what being Anya was like and that made me like her more.
The ghost was also likable, right up until she wasn’t. Emily suffered, poor thing; life dealt her, as she recounts her story to Anya, quite a few bad hands, not the least of which being her death and consequent ghosthood, stuck in the well she died in, bound to her never-found bones. Poor Emily. What a sweet little ghost of a girl she seemed to be, which made it all the more interesting and sinister when she began to go a bit Dead White Female on Anya. The move, as a reader, from sympathy to enmity happened gradually and organically — no mean feat in a reasonably short tale. I won’t spoil anyone; I want you to read and experience it for yourself.
Anya’s Tale has reopened the graphic novel door for me, though the bar is once again set high. I’m looking forward to seeing who else manages to reach it.