Anya's Ghost: And You Thought Your Adolescence Sucked!
Anya Borzakovskaya has fairly typical problems for a teenage girl: she doesn't think she's pretty enough, she's got an annoying younger brother and an embarrassing mother, her only friend is a sarcastic girl named Siobhain who mostly jut gives her a hard time, and the boy she likes is dating a girl who's better than her in basically every way imaginable. In addition, she's a Russian immigrant who's tried for the past few years to Americanize herself as much as possible, only to be constantly associated with Dima, a unpopular nerdy boy who seems fresh off the boat and the only other Russian at her school.
One day, on her way to school, she doesn't see where she's going, and accidentally falls down an old abandoned well. Terrifyingly enough, there's a skeleton down there--along with the ghost of the girl whose body it used to be. Emily, the ghost of the title, claims she fell down the well while fleeing the man who murdered her family, and has been stuck down there for roughly 90 years, and is more than happy to have company. She even helps Anya to attract the attention of a passerby, allowing her to avoid her fate.
However, Anya discovers that she accidentally must have picked up Emily's finger bone, allowing the ghost to follow her home. At first things are great--Emily helps Anya to cheat on tests, avoid teachers when cutting class or smoking, and flirt with Sean, the boy she has a crush on. However, Emily soon becomes pushy about pairing Anya up with Sean, even as Anya discovers Sean is not as good as she expected. To make things worse, after doing some research she discovers Emily may not be the person she claimed to be.
This comic by Vera Brosgol takes a great risk, by having a rather unsympathetic protagonist. Anya is resentful, petty, mean-spirited, and self-pitying at the start of the story. She gets better, but it takes the events in this story to show her the error of her ways. This of course makes her a much more complicated and interesting character than authors are usually willing to give their audience, and Brosgol is rewarded for her gamble.
Emily, our other main character, is also complicated. While initially appearing sweet and helpful, she has a much darker side, which demonstrates itself when she starts to control Anya's life, and later to threaten it. Brosgol makes the reader like Emily, before revealing how terrifying she can be.
I liked how this story deliberately subverts teenage drama cliches. Anya doesn't discover that she likes the shy and nerdy Dima over the handsome and athletic Sean, although she does grow closer to the former while discovering the latter is not as attractive as he initially seemed. Sean's girlfriend, Elizabeth, is not a mean bitch, but actually a fairly nice and kind young woman, although one with rather dark secrets of her own. And Anya and Siobhain are not unjustly outcast rebels, but two rather cruel girls who don't have any other friends mostly because they're bitter and not particularly nice to anyone else. It all makes the story seem fresh and interesting.
All in all, a nice story with interesting characters. I liked how it took risks and didn't follow the cliches you might expect. Both Anya and Emily are interesting characters, and in general I found it to be well worth reading. If you see it, it's well worth a read.
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