Anya’s Ghost is the first of what I hope will be many books by Vera Brosgol, and it’s one of my favorite graphic novels. It’s a stand-alone story that takes realistic fiction and gives it a paranormal twist, and it features a protagonist who is refreshingly fallible.
To give you a little behind-the-scenes insight, I’ll tell you that I recorded this booktalk several days ago, just a few minutes after I finished writing it. In a future “how-to” episode I’ll be talking about how and why booktalks can evolve over time, but I can tell you that I’ve already made multiple changes to this booktalk and I haven’t even presented it to an audience yet. So stay tuned for that future episode when I’ll tell you about some of the changes I’ve made and why I made them.
Anya is a Russian girl who doesn’t fit in at her American school. Over the last few years she lost weight and she lost her accent, but she still can’t get the other kids to like her. There is one Russian boy at her school, but Anya doesn’t want to hang out with him because he’s much too Fobby (that’s Fresh Off the Boat). And then one day Anya has an accident that changes her life. She falls down into an abandoned well, and at the bottom of that well she finds a skeleton. And hovering just above that skeleton is the ghost of a girl. When Anya sees that ghost, she has the reaction that you might expect.
That’s right — she freaks out and starts screaming.
But little by little, as the ghost talks to Anya and Anya talks to the ghost, Anya starts to calm down. By the time she gets rescued, she’s starting to become friends with the girl who used to be Emily Reilly. Anya starts learning the advantages of being friends with a ghost. Emily can help Anya cheat on tests by telling her the answers the other kids chose. Emily can sneak a look at Sean’s schedule so that Anya can just happen to bump into him after class. Emily can tell her the best places to hide where the principal won’t be able to find her.
Anya wants to repay Emily for helping her out, and she offers to do some research and see if she can find out what really happened to Emily. But the more Anya learns about Emily, the more she realizes that Emily has been concealing the truth about herself. And Emily has been dead for almost 100 years; she’s had a LOT of time to think about what she really wants. Anya is going to learn just how dangerous befriending a ghost can be.