GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW…
#28 ANYA’S GHOST by VERA BROSGOL
I first came across Brosgol’s work on the animated movie Coraline- a dark Burton-esque nightmare tale which really caught my interest both visually and narratively.
Anya’s Ghost continues the idea of that movie seamlessly too, weaving a wonderful story about an angry awkward teen who takes her family and friends for granted until someone even more twisted and hurtful comes into her life. It’s a well used plotline no doubt but despite that fact Brosgol somehow manages to inject a wonderful kind of wit and heart into each page.
I suppose there are some people out there who might find the artwork simplistic, maybe even a little sparse… but I disagree. I think it’s confidence that led the author to write/draw in black and white. It’s not simplistic it’s self-assured. Concise. And it adds a little non-Western flavour to a narrative that has been hammered into the ground by shoddy American teen movies over the last ten years.
In style actually the novel reminded me a lot of Ari Folmon’s film Waltz with Bashir; I can’t say exactly why, perhaps the shadowy colour palette had something to do with it-the fact that the author purposely chose to limit themselves to blacks and greys. It’s a bold thing to limit yourself in any way when you write and the sheer audacity of that decision impresses me no end, whatever the medium.
It’s not just a success in style though. The novel also contains all these little moments that surprise you with their maturity. Like Anya finding Elizabeth standing guard while her boyfriend ‘enjoys himself’ with another girl in the bathroom, a horrible scene which forces her to realise that the popular girl she’s envied for so long has awful things to deal with in her own life. Or Dima’s confession in the library that he always considered Anya to be someone who fit in at school, someone who’d figured out the grand secret to surviving high school when she simply feels herself to be nothing but an outsider looking in.
All these small fragile moments form a powerful message and it’s one which bursts through mightily at the climax. That you don’t know what’s going on in anyone’s head, anyone’s life so what right do you have to judge them? It’s a simple truth but a real one and applicable to all of us whatever our age or gender, don’t you think?
It’s a shame really that graphic novels aren’t considered literary enough to make it onto school curriculae because Anya’s Ghost would be just as relevant for kids these days as any of the old classics. And not only that… I’m damn sure that they’d make more of an effort to read a ‘comic book’ than Great Expectations or Pride&Prejudice.
Conclusion: A graphic novel that’s both unsettling and insightful. 8 out of 10.