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“I don’t think murder is an appropriate reaction to disappointment,” Anya. –Anya’s Ghost
by Vera Brosgol
AR Test, Graphic Novel
Anya just wants to fit in with the other kids. But, she knows that she’s not like them. She’s embarrassed of her Russian heritage, self-conscious about her body, and she only has one friend at school. After a particularly bad day at school, Anya distractedly walks home and falls into a well.
Anya didn’t expect to find a new friend at the bottom of the well, especially not one that has been dead for a century. Anya thinks the ghost is just what she needs to make her life better. But Anya’s new BFF isn’t telling the truth about how she ended up dead in a well. Can Anya trust her ghostly BFF or will Anya’s new friend turn into her worst nightmare?
Brosgal’s fantastic artwork brings Anya’s terrible teenage years to life. The illustrations capture Anya’s conflicting emotions and her angst as she navigates high school. After Anya’s family immigrated to America, Anya was bullied which caused her to turn away from her heritage. In order to fit in, Anya has learned to talk without an accent, as well as look like all of her classmates. However, Anya still struggles with making friends, she has insecurities about her body, and she is angry about life in general. Anya’s character is incredibly real—she is snarky, sarcastic; she sulks and sneers her way through life. Although Anya acts like many teens, she is not a role model. She’s rude to her family, unmotivated to do well in school, and sneaks out of class to smoke cigarettes. Despite Anya’s negative attitude, readers can still learn powerful lessons from the less-than-perfect teen.
Anya is self-centered and only thinks about herself. At first, when Anya meets her ghost, she just wants the ghost to disappear from her life. But when the ghost helps her cheat on a test, Anya thinks having a ghost around might not be so bad. Anya is so self-centered that she doesn’t even ask the ghost her name until the ghost becomes helpful. Anya also treats a Russian boy terribly. Anya doesn’t want to associate with the Russian boy at her school because he’s “fresh off the boat.”
The story also portrays teachers in a negative way. The teacher doesn’t notice when Anya sneaks out a classroom window. Another student complains about the P.E. teacher who makes them complete the physical fitness test because “he just likes watching us run around in these stupid skirts.” Then when Anya trips in class and the other girls jump over her, the teacher says, “Ladies! If we are all done losing ourselves in Anya’s derriere, we have a test to finish.”
Despite the negative aspects of the books, the story will make readers reconsider how they treat others. The story highlights the courage it takes for teens to embrace their differences instead of trying to blend in with the crowd. Anya’s Ghost uses real-life situations and humor to show how it feels to be an outsider. Anya wishes that she was skinnier, had more friends, and had a different last name. But thanks to Anya’s spooky, demanding ghost, Anya learns to appreciate her life, even if that means embracing her Russian heritage. Anya’s Ghost is comical, compassionate, creepy, and will engage even the most reluctant readers.
- Anya has a crush on Sean. She sees Sean in front of the school, kissing a girl.
- When someone teases Anya, her friend tells the girl, “Hey, Katy, I heard about your nice moves in the boys’ bathroom today.”
- Anya tells her friend that Sean talked to her. Anya’s friend replies, “Are you sure he wasn’t talking to your boobs?”
- Anya fantasizes about kissing Sean. In the fantasy, the two dance, and then Sean says, “Oh Anya, let’s have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason.” To which Anya replies, “Oh, Sean, Take me away!”
- To go to a party, Anya dresses in a short skirt and a low-cut shirt. When she looks at herself, she says, “this feels kind of slutty.” When Anya gets to the party, a boy tells her, “Your boobs look spectacular in that shirt.”
- At a party, Anya finds Sean’s girlfriend outside a door. Anya can hear a girl giggling inside the room. Sean comes out of the room and briefly flirts with Anya. Then Sean tells his girlfriend, “Maybe a bit more of a signal next time, Liz?” Sean’s girlfriend reveals that the girl in the room is another boy’s girlfriend.
- Anya decides she doesn’t want anything to do with Sean because “he’s upstairs making out with Amber.”
- The ghost, Emily, tells Anya that she fell into a well and died, but “it didn’t hurt. But I couldn’t move or talk. I got very thirsty and then I died.
- The ghost tells a story about how her parents were “very religious” and would offer to let passing people sleep in the barn. One man who “seemed like a good Christian” killed her parents. When Emily “woke up from a dream and came downstairs, he was standing over my parents’ bodies, ready to go upstairs for me.” Emily ran and fell down a well, where she died.
- When Emily was alive, she had a crush on a man. When she sees the man with another woman, Emily killed them both. Emily says, “He said I was ugly! He broke my heart!”
- The ghost tries to hurt Emily’s mother by turning on the stove burner and poisoning the food.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Anya and her friend skip class so they can smoke cigarettes.
- During a conversation, Sean says that his friend gets “kind of freaky when he’s drunk.”
- Anya goes to a party, where it’s implied that teens are drinking.
- Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes: ass, badass, crap, goddamn, and whore.
- Anya’s friend tells her, “I heard about you down that freakin’ well for two days! That’s so badass.”
- God, my God, and Oh my God are used as an exclamation frequently. When the ghost sneaks up on Anya, Anya says, “Jesus, Emily! You scared me to death!”
- A girl tells Anya’s friend, “Screw you.”
- When a girl teases Anya, her friend tells her, “forget about that whore, Anya.”
- A girl says her brother said Sean was a dirtbag. The same girl says that Sean is a manwhore.
- Anya says that Emily is “just a pissy cloud.”
- Anya falls into a well and meets a ghost, who “can’t go very far from my bones.”
- Anya falls into a well. When she finds food in her backpack, she says “Oh, Thank God.” Later, when someone finds her in the well, she again says, “Oh, Thank God.”
- There is a picture of Jesus on the wall in Anya’s house. When Anya cusses, her mom tells Anya not to “swear in front of Jesus.”
- Anya refuses to go to church with her family. When her mom tells Anya people are worried about her, Anya asks, “Because I’m sick or because I’m going to hell?” Later Anya tells the ghost that she doesn’t want to go to church because “orthodox church is weird.”