Oh high school… its trials and tribulations have provided fodder for some very cool writers and filmmakers. And now, Vera Brosgol, who has already made a name for herself in film and animation as storyboard artist for Coraline and story artist for Paranorman, has joined their ranks with her first full length graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost.Put out by First Second, it reads like a PG-13 Heathers with dash of cute.
Anya, a Russian born American, is having a hard time. The typical high school sort of hard time. She wishes she were thinner. And that her family would act a little less Russian. She’s pining after a popular boy with a popular girlfriend. Her grades aren’t great. And it seems like outcasts are her only prospects for friendship.
And then she falls down a well. Trapped with the bones and ghost of Emily Reilly, a young murder victim who has spent the past ninety years down here, Anya, the chainsmoking damsel in distress, makes for miserable company. Luckily, Emily and a random punk rocker facilitate her rescue. The girls form a friendship based on the most selfish of intentions – mutually so, mind you – and Anya finds Emily’s lust for life, albeit vicarious, to be a breath of fresh air. For a little while, anyway…
It’s rare, not super rare, but rare, that a writer will illustrate her own book. Brosgol’s talents in both departments shine here. Her simple, bold, and neat line work pairs perfectly with the story and the greyscale color scheme adds a depth that keeps it visually interesting throughout. It’s fun. Like a teen movie, on paper.
And, as with the best of teen movie protagonists, Anya finds herself. She learns that things are not always as they seem. And that being true to yourself makes you cooler than any makeover or boyfriend might.