7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Russian Girl,
This review is from: Anya's Ghost (Paperback)This is a great graphic novel for young teens -- especially girls -- with a well-paced story and plenty to say about social anxiety, body image, friendship, and ghostbusting. Anya is a 9th or 10th-grader at a lower-tier private school (not unlike the one I went to), who is embarrassed by her immigrant past. Her family came to the US from Russia when she was five, and she has worked very hard to lose any accent, eat American foods (while not becoming plump), dress properly, and generally fit in as an American teen. However, the signs of her angst are literally postered all over her bedroom: Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Neko Case, The Shins, Metric, etc. -- all perfectly good bands, but indicative of an underlying wistfulness. (Had she been of my generation, there surely would have been at least one Smiths and one Cure poster.)
One afternoon, she falls down a hole in the park and makes the acquaintance of a ghost from 1918 named Emily. She's been hovering over her skeleton for years, mourning the death of her fiancee in WWI, and herself at the hands of a murderer. One of Emily's bones gets into Anya's bag by accident, and when she'd rescued, Emily is able to hitch a ride to the surface. Before too long Anya and she become friends, with Anya spilling her insecurities to her new gal-pal ghost as Emily tries to help her succeed at school, fashion, and with the boy she has a crush on. Of course, as anyone who's watched a teen makeover comedy knows, there's always danger when the geeky girl tries to rebrand herself according to the conventional norms.
The final third of the book takes a rather menacing turn as Anya starts to realize that even the shiny popular kids have issues lurking just below the surface. This is all kind of John Hughes 101 type stuff (there's even a subplot involving a nerdy Russian kid whom Anya shuns but then has to turn to for help), but it's well done and the high contrast artwork brings it to life in a way that's neither too cartoony nor too realistic. Based on the brief author bio on the back, it sounds like many of the themes are autobiographical, as are many aspects of Anya's personality -- which is probably why it feels so dead on. Great stuff for girls in the 10-14 range or thereabouts, and still fairly entertaining for others.