By Carter Glace
In my efforts to get a Peanuts-centric piece out before the new film, I completely forgot that I was missing an ample opportunity for a Halloween based column. I baffles me that I forgot, because Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, and it always frustrates me how this holiday only gets one day while Christmas is allowed to be a two month avalanche of forced merriment. So you know what? Halloween is on for another week, as I cover a quiet, creepy and endearing ghost novel called Anya’s Ghost.
The story is fairly simple as far as coming of age stories go, Anya is a teen embarrassed by her very Russian immigrant mother, struggling to make friends, and distressed that the millennial boyfriend of her dreams doesn’t seem to notice her. Things take a turn for the supernatural when a fall down an abandoned well results in her meeting Emily a girl who fell down the very same hole and died in the 1910. And when Anya accidentally brings home a piece of Emily’s skeleton, the two find themselves together.
I adore the art style of the novel. I’m very much a sucker for simple, clean, minimalist designs, and the work here pops with life and personality, with great stylish flourish to be memorable. It’s not until a second reading in which I noticed how long stretches go without any dialogue, yet the art is expressive enough to gives these sections striking amounts of emotion and character. Even the simplest of faces and frames allows for an abundant amount to be expressed, a staple of great art design.
Despite it’s brisk pace, writer Vera Brosgol finds enough time and space to let each character tell their own interesting story. A near perfect balance is achieved in terms of being broad enough to be recognizable by everyone but given enough life and detail to make each character feel human and sympathetic. I won’t spoil it, but Elizabeth, the girlfriend of the aforementioned Millennial guy, is the best example of this. A character normally made as a joke or forgettable antagonist, a turn near the end of the book makes her an instantly unique character, one I wish had more time to grow. Yet one of the novel’s strengths is bringing in support characters fully formed in order to make Anya’s journey of self acceptance take center stage.
It also finds a solid balance when it comes to horror. It’s definitely not the scariest of works, it finds a fitting balance of creepy, having a share of disturbing imagery and frightening scenes. I would say it’s maybe a step bellow Paranorman and maybe slightly less intense than Coroline (fun fact, while researching this, I found out Brosgol did story boards for both!).
If your looking for something light horror this fall, Anya’s Ghost is worth a look. Fast paced, beautifully drawn, and earnest and successful in its ambitions, it is a perfect Halloween read.
Carter Glace is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org