Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

This was my 18th book for the YALSA Best Books challenge.

Anya is a teen girl who is looking for all the things that most teen girls are looking for: popularity, acceptance, style, a particular boyfriend, etc. Of course she feels that things are complicated by the fact that she feels that she is too fat and that if anyone knew about her Russian heritage she would become an easy target for teasing. When Anya runs away from her frustrations (the boy she likes kissing another girl, the thought of her mother forcing her to eat fattening Russian food, her friend teasing her) she falls down an old well. In this well there is a skeleton of a girl who died in 1918. The ghost of the skeleton comes and promises to help Anya with her life (once she is rescued and gets out of the well). At first the ghost does things that Anya is pleased with. The ghost helps her cheat for a test she hasn’t studied for. The ghost helps her get a ride to a sketchy party with the guy she likes (and his girlfriend). But then the ghost starts tyring to get Anya to do things she isn’t comfortable with. And then the ghost threatens Anya and her family. Anya must then figure out what is really important in her life–what is worth fighting for.

This is a good story. Not just because of the story line, but because of the illustrations as well. The whole book is not just black and white like many graphic novels or manga. There is more of a purple tint to the illustrations that just make the story all the more spooky. And the ghost is creepy. There is so much expression in a character that just has big white circles for eyes–no pupils or anything. Yet just based on how the eyes look (with the help of some eyebrows and such) you can see if she is trying to be sweet or has become the evil ghost monster girl. And terrifying to think that a ghost can start doing more than just haunting. Ghosts are scary enough but the fact that when a ghost gets more power they can kill others when they don’t even have a body, crazy! Basically this would be a great start for those wanting a good ghost story for the camp fire sleepovers or who want a good graphic novel to introduce them into the genre. Spooky, good book!

Book Discussion Questions:
Why was Anya so determined to fit in? What was her idea of being accepted?
Near the end of the book the ghost said, “If Siobhan’s so important to you, why haven’t you called her in two weeks? And you love your precious family so much that you lie about your last name.” What did she mean? How do people show their love or that someone is important to them? Why didn’t Anya? What got in the way?
Why didn’t Anya believe Siobhan about what kind of guy Sean is?

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