Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Move Over, Raina Telgemeier

I might have a new favorite graphic novelist now.

Not really- I've been hooked on Raina since I read Smile. That's why I've traveled three times, to three different states, to see her present and sign books. But, I just finished reading Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, and it was amazing.

Smile hooked me because the story presented before me had elements that were almost identical to my own life. Her 'love at first sight' reaction to The Little Mermaid matches my own affinity for Ariel.  As does her devouring of The Babysitters Club series and her many dental experiences, which have shaped her story. Anya's Ghost is intended for a slightly older audience, and it's relatable in regard to Anya and how she views herself.

The story starts out with Anya meeting a ghost named Emily, who seems pretty harmless. She helps Anya through an algebra test by looking at the answer sheet and later helps her get the attention of a cute boy in school. She's the friend you got accidentally who's trying really, really really hard to get you to like her. Kinda like I Dream of Jeannie combined with Casper the Friendly Ghost.

But, after a while Anya realizes that Emily is more dangerous than she seems, and the story actually becomes kind of like a horror story- complete with lies, betrayal, murder and skeletons. Gotta love those skeletons!

The narrative itself reads like a horror story, but the illustrations are light-hearted and definitely offset any of the scariness (for readers who are not really fans of horror).

The best part about the character of Emily is that she's not evil on her own, she's reflecting some of the traits that Anya knows she possesses, which makes all the terrible stuff that happens that much more personal. It like Anya is seeing the worst version of herself and what she could become.

I hate to be the kind of librarian  person that picks out a lesson or a moral in every story, but I think the one here is pretty clear. Nobody is perfect; we all have qualities about ourselves that are sometimes inconvenient or unseemly or shameful, but rather than let those qualities haunt you and hold you back, you can see them for what they are and recognize that they don't have to make you.

So my new author crush was cemented when I read the interview with Vera  Brosgol at the end; she's a woman after my own heart.  Her favorite childhood books were the Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwarz, she read The Silence of the Lambs "for fun", and her favorite literary character is Matilda. Lastly, her quality that she wishes she could change would be how self critical she is.

I hope that Vera Brosgol intends to release another book at some point because I'd be first in line to buy it.

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