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Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

 anya

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Ghost stories can be pretty horrifying. Some have grisly looking spirits erupting from dark corners of long abandoned mansions. Others feature ghastly specters wandering cemeteries at night, hoping for someone from the land of the living to enter. Anya’s Ghost is a ghost story of a different kind. What if you met a ghost that seemed a lot like you? Someone who wanted to go with you to school, read the same fashion magazines, watch the same TV shows? Doesn’t sound quite as horrifying does it? That’s exactly what Anya thought too. Unfortunately for Anya, ghosts are always as transparent as they seem.

In Anya’s Ghost, author Vera Brosgol creates a graphic novel that blends humor, drama and suspense. Her illustrations are simple but affective, using a grey scale palette and focusing more on giving the book style and infusing it with character rather than creating overly detailed artwork. However, the ideas within Anya’s Ghost are not quite as simple, and will hit rather close to home for most readers.

Anya is a girl struggling to find an identity. Torn between her family who are Russian immigrants and an American culture at school that demands conformity, Anya is more and more choosing the latter lifestyle over the example her mother has tried to make. Throughout the book, we see Anya dealing with issues of cultural identity, self-confidence, body image – basically the kind of issues most teens deal with when they’re in high school. Plus, you know, there’s a ghost.

It’s an interesting dynamic between Anya and her newly found ghost friend, Emily. Emily was about Anya’s age when she passed away and has plenty of advice to give her about family, school and boys, all through the point of view of someone living in 1918.

Through the course of the book, Anya realizes that this helpful ghost may not be what she seems and ends up discovering more about the Emily’s life (and death) than she ever wanted to know. The results of these epiphanies are thrilling and lead to a climax that you’ll have to read to get the details. Highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by J. J., CLP-Beechview

 

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

 

 

rampant

Rampart by Diana Peterfreund

A book about kick-butt girls devoting their lives to hunt giant killer unicorns definitely seems like a great read. But did Rampant by Diana Peterfreund really meet all the standards?

I’ll admit it, I took a gamble reading this book. The reviews were a mixed bag of devoted fans demanding a third book and people complaining that they had wasted their time. What did get me hooked was the promise of a main character who was a strong, independent heroine. Unfortunately, this was not that kind of book. Drop the idea of strong female leads living lives full of danger and replace it with a story about a whiny girl dating a “dreamy” boy she knows nothing about.

Meet Astrid, a girl with some serious romance issues and deep emotional turmoil. Most of the book was just Astrid running around complaining about her ancestor, Alexander the Great, (don’t worry, we’ll get to him) and secretly dating a “bad boy”. Giovanni, the boyfriend, had barely any development or interesting qualities. He just was there to occasionally offer advice or take Astrid out to dinner. Giovanni (and most of the other characters) were more plot devices than anything else. At least 80% of these characters were flat, cliché, and boring.

My biggest problem with this book was the history the author invented. Alexander the Great (long story short) had the goddess Diana show up at his birth. In order to avenge the deaths of her followers who were killed by unicorns, she blessed him with the ability to find and kill the giant killer unicorns. Great gift, right? Every one of his female ancestors would possess the gift as long as she reminded a virgin. Of course, Astrid and all of her friends at unicorn hunting school are somehow descended from this man, who had no heirs. Let’s not forget that Diana is also a Roman goddess in Alexander’s homeland of Macedonia, and ancient Greek kingdom. Whoops. Research, it matter.

Other than the weird historical side plots, the book was generally bland and boring plot. The writer did an OK job piecing this mess together, but I found the pacing made some parts hard to read over. Most of the book was just Astrid sitting with her cousin Philippa complaining about unicorn hunting while she could be spending her days exploring Rome. Did I mention unicorn school is located next to the Coliseum? And that’s she’s basically allowed to do whatever she wants when she’s not training?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. If you are looking for a teen romance novel with the slightest dash of fantasy, be my guest and try it. But if you are like me, and expecting a book about girls that are more interested in adventure than finding their man, I don’t recommend it.

 

Happy reading,

Laurel, CLP-Sheraden teen

 

 

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Ralph Munn Creative Writing Workshop and Contest
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