Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
What teenager couldn’t use a little help with high school? When Anya finds herself with a ghostly pal, she is not exactly thrilled, but when her ghost seems to have all the answers, how can she resist! The ghost can help her get ahead in school, catch the attention of the boy she likes; Anya is hooked. But surprisingly enough, you may not want to leave your fate to a ghost with a mysterious and tragic past.
Anya’s Ghost is absolutely fantastic. I love Anya with her insecurities and flippant manner. The illustrations are terrific, the kind that will make readers appreciate black and white. The book is exactly the right mix of humor, eeevil (if you’ve seen any Austin Powers movies you know how I want you to say that) and warmth. The best thing however, is that when push comes to shove, Anya pushes back. This is a teen who doesn’t just want to get the guy, she wants to get the right guy. And her family may irritate the heck out of her, but she will defend them ferociously when necessary. In the end, Anya’s Ghost gives “peer” pressure a fascinating and alarming twist that is completely engaging.
Age Recommendation: Anya does lots of things that I don’t exactly admire in a teen: she cuts class, smokes, lies to her mother, thinks about her weight, but she’s relatable and real and you’re given enough insight into her feelings to get why these things happen. As such, I personally wouldn’t have any problem with readers in Grades 7 and up reading this book!
Great for: This is one I just loved, so I’d recommend it for so many different readers, but I think a lot of kids who feel like outsiders, particularly ones who have come to the US as immigrants will enjoy reading about Anya’s experiences. The graphic novel format also may assist in increasing understanding for readers who struggle.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A woman’s cleavage is drawn. A teen is teased about a boyfriend (the person in question is not her boyfriend). A couple kisses (this is shown). A teen is asked if she is “a hot chick”. A teen’s underpants are shown. A comment is made about a girl’s moves in the boys’ bathroom. This is a tease and may not reflect anything she’s actually done. Teens discuss the possibility that guys are talking to their boobs. The ghost sees someone’s boob in a magazine. A teen compliments another teen’s boobs. A teen is with another teen’s girlfriend while his girlfriend waits outside.
Profanity – “oh my God”, “crap”, “freakin'”, “bitchin'”, “screw you”, “whore”, “ass”, “goddamn”, “hell”, “manwhore”, “sucky”, “lame”, “Jesus”, “pissy”,
Death, Violence and Gore – A skeleton is shown. The ghost explains how it died (a fall, then paralysis, then died of thirst). A teen gets beat up at lunch. Children used to be beaten by canes. There is some false information regarding deaths, but I’m reporting it all without commenting which is true and which is not. Someone’s fiance was killed in a war. Some people were murdered. A knife is shown in the illustrations. A couple was murdered in an arson. There are other attempted murders, with poison, gas. A woman is made to fall down the stairs. There are some reasonably creepy illustrations of the ghost merged with a skeleton toward the end of the book.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Teens smoke.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.