Monday, September 12, 2011

Anya's Ghost

I enjoy graphic novels, though I’m certainly not a fanatic, and I was pleased to read Vera Brosgol's Anya’s Ghost, an interesting addition to the genre.

Anya is a teenager originally from Russia. She has worked hard to put her immigrant status behind her but still struggles to find her place in a private high school. Everything changes when, after an accident, she meets a ghost who appears to have the answers to all Anya’s problems.

Immigration and identity are nothing new to graphic novels (think American Born Chinese), but Brosgol brings an unexpected twist to the theme. The book is a fast read, with several turns, and quite enjoyable. Anya is only a semi-likable heroine, though I suspect most real teenagers are only semi-likable, but her interaction with the ghost helps her to mature in an intriguing way.

Vaclav & Lena

The only (free) copy of Haley Tanner's Vaclav & Lena I could get my hands on was the audio book. I’ve never been a fan of audio books outside of road trips. I have a hard time staying focused on the story and often find myself irritated with the choice of reader.

Vaclav & Lena was no exception. The reader, Kirby Heyborne, is a local “celebrity,” and I found his voice both distracting and annoying. Yet, I also found myself looking for opportunities to listen to the book. Generally, cooking/cleaning is my NPR time, but I forfeited my news to listen to Vaclav and Lena’s epic love story.

The book encompasses a lot and a little at the same time. It takes place over a brief time when the title characters are children and again when they are teenagers, but what those times represent is significant in both their struggles for identity. Vaclav and Lena are immigrants to the US from Russia and meet in ESL class: Vaclav’s parents brought him to the US for a better life; Lena isn’t even sure who her parents are.

I was attracted to this book because of my experience in Eastern Europe and as an ESL teacher, but anyone who has experienced love, change, and hurt can certainly relate to these characters.