Thursday, April 25, 2013

Graphic By Nature

Welcome to the first installment of Graphic By Nature! This is the place for graphic novel reviews, but you won't find any traditional superheroes here. If you're like me, you enjoy your comics funny, strange, and sometimes a little dark. But you also value an interesting story and captivating illustration. Sounds like you? Check out the review below.

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I discovered Vera Brosgol's graphic novel, Anya's Ghost almost by accident. I was at the library perusing the "Teen Section" where they have conveniently placed all of the comics and graphic novels, making me look terribly out of place in the process. I was scanning the shelves and title after title read "Marvel" and "DC." While superhero comics are fun and popular, that's not what I was interested in. I wanted something I hadn't seen before, something a little different, and Brosgol's novel stuck out like a sore thumb. So I picked it up. While the old adage, "Don't judge a book by it's cover" can be useful, it wasn't here. A judgement was rendered -- it looked interesting -- and it came home with me.

Anya's Ghost is a young adult graphic novel centered around a high school girl named Anya, her struggle for normalcy as a Russian immigrant living in America, and her friendship with a ghost named Emily. But the moral of this story is about perception. Things aren't always what they seem, but Anya just doesn't know it yet. 

At the beginning of the story, Anya is like many other teenagers -- self-absorbed, insecure, and a bit mean to her family. She sees only what is happening on the surface. It's at a typical high-school party that she has the experience of peering into another reality to realize that all is not what it seems. Anya begins to change through a series of events involving her ghost friend Emily, a classmate named Dima, and her family. Anya becomes stronger, more self-confident, and selfless through these experiences and over the course of the story.

The graphic part of the novel is beautifully drawn and shaded in three main colors: black, white, and purple. The lines Brosgol uses are heavy and dark while the artwork is a bit cartoonish -- it's reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. The cartoon-like quality of the drawings makes the novel accessible to readers of almost any age. 

While I especially enjoyed the beginning of Anya's Ghost, things were muddled in the middle with the fight involving Anya's best friend, not to mention her inaction while watching Dima get bullied, or her attempts to garner the attention of her popular crush. Ultimately, Anya learns her lesson that things aren't always what they seem.

The Verdict:

Library bag. While I enjoyed Anya's Ghost, it's heavy midsection kept me from running down to my local comic shop to pick up my own copy. However, I think it would be a great read for most adolescents and teens. It's beautifully illustrated with a lesson that all of us could take care to remember.

You can find the author on Twitter @verabee.

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