Anya’s Ghost is really very good, dealing with many of the social issues that teens go through, but with the added twist of setting those things against a ghost’s experience. Anya thinks she has problems, and she thinks that she knows how to deal with them, but she hasn’t dealt with Emily Reilly yet.
When she accidentally falls down a well, Anya Borzakovskaya meets Emily Reilly, a nice girl about her own age–at least she was when Emily died in 1918. After Anya is rescued, Emily accompanies her and they become best friends, with Emily’s ghostly powers allowing Anya to cheat on tests and look out for adults so that Anya can snag a smoke on occasion. She also helps Anya with boys. However, Emily becomes increasingly controlling and eventually goes too far beyond Anya’s comfort level. Emily may not be the sweet innocent ghost of a murdered girl after all.
This is a delightful portrait of a girl coming to terms with blending into American culture. She does her best to rid herself of the fetters which bind her to her Russian roots and the “fat girl” who came to the United States when she was five. She struggles with self-esteem and being cool, lying about her last name, deciding to stop going to church, avoiding other “fobby” Russians, and trying desperately to fit in. Each of these things forces her to push her academics on the back burner, which is why Emily seems to be so helpful in the beginning: her grades improve, as does her confidence with a boy. She learns what it means to be confident in who she is, as well as to do the right thing–even if it isn’t the cool or popular thing.
As far the art, it’s simple yet endearing. There are some poignant subtleties as well. Despite being in black and white, it feels warm and clean. It reminds me, in many ways, of Persepolis–though with a lot less persecution and depression.
This is the one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!