Review originally published here
.Why I Read It:
I had spotted a few reviews praising this graphic novel, and then I noticed it had a blurb from Neil Gaiman on it (!!!) so I decided to read it during my breaks at work.
Well, I can see WHY people are singing this novel's praises. It's really a solid work and I really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I bought myself a copy of it about a week after finishing it.
The story is multi-faceted; the story is very clearly focused on Anya, but there are different threads to her narrative: we have her coming-age-story which encompasses not only her dealing wanting to fit in and dealing with a crush, but also with her feelings of otherness because she's a Russian immigrant and her integration into American society. Along with all that, there's the more obvious thread of her dealing with her ghost-friend Emily and Emily's progression from being a friendly ghost to slowly becoming a possessive and controlling freak trying to live vicariously through Anya.
The ghost story was definitely creepy. It's not pee-your-pants scary, but there's a feeling of tension and dread surrounding the whole ordeal. It all starts out innocently enough, but the end it crescendos into "holy effff!!!" territory and I was actually concerned about Anya and her family. So yeah, the ghost story? Very well done.
Anya's story of self-discovery/coming-of-age was also handled awesomely. Anya herself is a very sympathetic character, even when she does things that are less-than-nice. She faces all kinds of things that normal teenage girls deal with (crushes, body image issues, friendships gone awry) that will make her easily relatable to teens, and she's also super funny. Honestly, the writing throughout this novel was perfect and I found myself giggling out loud quite a few times, despite the novel's later scarier tone. The balance here was perfect.
The art is found between the covers is also notable. I loved Brogsol's art style. Like Friends With Boys
it's a lot more cartoony than other graphic novels I've read, but it fits the story perfectly. All the images are in black and white and have purple-y and grey splashes throughout that looks really good. The characters are super expressive as well, which is what mostly makes it look so appealing. It all reminded me of a mix between Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi (because of the black and white) with the stylization of Friends With Boys
This is another graphic novel that is definitely worth checking out. It's got a creepy ghost story while wrapped in a coming-of-story/immigrant story. Anya is an awesome lead character: she's funny and completely relatable because of the issues she's dealing with. The writing overall is topnotch and is matched only by the art style which is very stylized and expressive. I hope Brogsol publishes more graphic novels in the future, as I would love to check them out.