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Comic Book / Anya's Ghost

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Everyone needs a best friend.

Anya's Ghost is a single-issue graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. It features Anya: an insecure, dowdy teenager, a Russian immigrant (although she's lost the accent), who finds herself struggling with the day-to-day trials of highschool life, like her crush Sean and mouthy friend Siobhan. One day, she falls down an abandoned well and discovers the bones of a young girl who fell down there before her... As well as the ghost of said girl, still haunting the well she died in ninety years prior. The ghost, Emily, turns out to be pretty friendly, and the two eventually become good friends, as well as partners in crime. (Anya uses her invisible buddy to cheat on tests, keep watch while she's smoking and spy on classmates.) Of course, these sort of things rarely end well, and soon Emily proves more of a problem than a friend.

A lovely story about friendship, selfishness and maturity. Try the artist's blog for more information.

In 2015, the film rights were bought by Andre and Barbara Muschietti. However, the latest news of the film's development comes from 2018, with the announcement of Emma Roberts being slated to play Emily, so the current status of its production is unknown.

This comic provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • A picture of a girl in a bikini is visible on the inside of Sean's locker when Emily sneaks into it to look up his schedule for Anya.
    • Preston tells Anya, "Your boobs look spectacular in that shirt" at Matt's party.
    • Averted with little church boy Dima.
    • Siobhan certainly thinks so.
    Siobhan: Has he even talked to you?
    Anya: He talked to me yesterday. He was really nice, as a matter of fact.
    Siobhan: Are you sure he wasn't just talking to your boobs?
  • Alpha Bitch: Deconstruction with Elizabeth. If you are familiar with high school tropes you'll think she'll be one, however she doesn't have the mean-spirited personality that typically defines them. It soon becomes obvious that Anya is the nasty one and she and the other girls are jealous of Elizabeth for being all around "perfect". However, when we get to the party we find out Sean likes to sleep around with other girls and Elizabeth not only knows about it, she goes along with it, because she only feels good about herself if she and Sean are together and desperately wants to keep him in her life. All her positive traits mean very little to her and it only shows she probably has little to no self esteem.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • The other kids picking on Dima. His bullying is only seen for one panel, but it's enough to drive the message home.
    • Anya likewise was treated like this in the past. It's a main reason why she's how she is now.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Emily claims to have died after fleeing from a maniac who murdered her parents and then falling down the well. Actually, she was hunted down by an angry mob after burning down the house of the guy who rejected her with him still inside, but we don't know if she was killed by the mob and her body was thrown into the well, or if she fell into the well while fleeing and died of starvation/dehydration in there instead.
  • An Aesop:
    • Everyone has problems. Even the person or couple you envy for being "perfect", could in reality have bigger issues than you have.
    • Even if other people have it better than you do, hurting them won't make your own life better. All you can do is try to improve yourself and your lot in life.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sasha; while he's not mean to his sister, he makes a habit of taking her things and burying them in the yard for his "digs", and his energetic nature is at odds with his sister's teenage angst.
  • Axe-Crazy: Emily whenever she's rejected. In life she murdered the boy she loved and the girl he chose over her because he called her "ugly", and as a ghost she starts trying to injure, and possibly even kill, Anya's family once Anya tries to break off their relationship.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Anya is immensely jealous of Elizabeth for seeming so perfect all the time, and wishes for proof that Elizabeth isn’t as flawless as she presents herself as. But when she finally finds out that Elizabeth is so insecure that she would rather help Sean cheat on her to keep him around than lose him, Anya is less than thrilled at the revelation.
  • Beneath the Mask: Elizabeth. She's cheerful, confident, and bests everyone at everything, but none of that gives her any sense of self worth and she desperately tries to keep Sean in her life by helping him cheat on her with other girls.
  • Big "NO!": Emily yells "Nooooooooo!" as Anya throws her finger bone down the well and she gets sucked back into the hole.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: We're led to believe at first that Emily is just a timid but friendly ghost who only wants to be free from the hole her remains are in, akin to Casper. But once she manages to get Anya to go to Sean's party, the facade slowly starts to crumble and we begin to see how she really is.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Comes into play when Anya comforts Sasha after he's threatened by Emily.
  • Boring Religious Service: Anya describes Orthodox church as "long, boring and full of Russians", and tries to make excuses not to go whenever she can. However, it's hinted that the real reason she hates church is because the elders always tell her she's too fat "while their ankles are spilling over their orthopedic shoes".
  • Broken Pedestal: Anya is deeply infatuated with Sean and envies his girlfriend, until she finds out that Sean takes advantage of his girlfriend’s insecurities to get her find girls for him to cheat on her with.
  • Character Development: Largely with Anya, she comes off as a moody and unlikeable character at the beginning of the story, only caring about herself. As she goes through her encounter with Emily, she begins to realize her own faults and how she previously thought of others were wrong. Ultimately growing to become a more caring character.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Little Sasha's obsession with archaeology, of all things, turns out to be useful when he finds Emily's finger bone and stores it in a box thinking it's a dinosaur bone, enabling Anya to end her rampage by taking it, and her, out of the house and back to the well.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Anya as she struggles to deal with highschool life and become a more mature person, with goals beyond impressing boys or looking cool.
  • Confirm Before Reveal: Anya and Dima are at the library looking through microfilms to find newspaper articles regarding the murder of Emily. After they have spent a while looking, Dima asks, "We're looking for a murder by a person named Emily Reilly, right?". Anya dismisses it at first because it wasn't what she's looking for until it clicked in her head when she realized what Dima just said and she sees the article he found.
  • Control Freak: Emily shows her true colors as one when she starts taking more and more control over Anya's life, trying to force her to live the life she wanted.
  • Class Princess: Deconstructed. Elizabeth is beautiful, blonde, popular, and dating the Big Man on Campus, and Anya and the other girls hate her for being so nice and perfect. However, Beneath the Mask, she is so insecure she lets and even helps her boyfriend find other girls to cheat on her with because she’s afraid he’ll leave her if she doesn’t let him do whatever he wants.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Emily was this when she was alive. It's not clarified if she was even dating the boy that she murdered, but seeing him with another girl led her to kill them both. She also becomes clingy towards Anya in a platonic sense.
  • Creepy Gym Coach: Anya hates doing the bleep test because she thinks the male gym teacher "just likes seeing [the girls] run around in those stupid skirts."
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Emily's more of a mousy, spindly kind of cute, but still distinctly adorable. Until her true colors start to shine through, and she becomes more scary than cute.
  • Dead to Begin With: Emily is only shown alive in brief flashbacks.
  • Death by Falling Over: Emily died by falling down the well and breaking her neck.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The entire graphic novel is done in varying shades of black, white, and purple.
  • Delinquent Hair: The boy who rescues Anya from the well has a mohawk.
  • Disappeared Dad: Anya's father is never seen. However, Anya's mother mentions using child support to pay for private school, likely meaning that Anya's parents are divorced.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Emily killed two people because one of them wouldn't return her affections. Lampshaded by Anya:
    Anya: " I don't think murder is an appropriate reaction to disappointment."
  • Dying as Yourself: Well, dying again as yourself, but as Emily falls down the well again, her hair reverts from the long, modern style to the poofy, dandelion-like style she had when she first met Anya.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Reconstructed. The concept is used in Anya's speech in order to reason with Emily that no one's life is so perfect that it's worth coveting over.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Anya may fantasize about Sean inexplicably leaving his long-time girlfriend for her instead, but when he offers for her to have a threesome with him and his best friend's girlfriend while Elizabeth miserably guards the door for them, she decides she doesn't want him that badly.
  • Evil All Along: Emily, who is actually the ghost of a psychopathic murderess.
  • Evil Counterpart: Emily when her true colors are revealed is the evil counterpart to Anya. After spending time with Anya, she turns out to possess exaggerated versions of all of Anya's negative traits: Emily is obsessive over boys (but unlike Anya, murderously so), sees existing girlfriends of 'mark' boys as competition and not individuals (but unlike Anya, she is inclined to murder them), lies and manipulates (but not just about her last name, she lies about her entire past). The mirroring is even physical: she dons Anya's hairdo and starts smoking "ghost cigarettes", presumably a mimicking of Anya's bad habit.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Emily learns to flatten her hair to create a more modern look, showing how she's becoming stronger in what she can do as a ghost and how her relationship with Anya is changing.
  • Face–Heel Turn Though it's debatable if she was a Heel to begin with, Emily becomes more overtly controlling after Matt's party and later starts threatening Anya's family when Anya finds out the truth about her death.
  • Fog Feet: Emily's feet either are fully formed or just part of a tail connected to her bones depending on what she's doing.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: When Anya's mother falls down the stairs and twists her ankle courtesy of Emily, she says, " leg!" Bleen is a very mild Russian swear word that literally means "pancake."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • We see a picture of a woman in a bikini in Sean's locker while Emily is in there, despite the fact that he already has a girlfriend. He turns out to be a lecherous pervert who doesn't just cheat on her, he makes her help him.
    • The cover. At first glance it just looks like Anya with the Emily we're first introduced to, but look closer and you'll see Emily's hairstyle is different. It's the hairstyle she gets when she first begins to reveal her true self to Anya.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sasha, Anya's little brother. Their family is Russian, where "Sasha" is usually a short form of "Alexander".
  • Genre Savvy: Siobhan knows that Sean is a bad pick for romance because he's "the kind of guy you're supposed to get a crush on in a bad teen movie."
  • Ghostly Goals: Anya discusses with Emily trying to help solve her murder, planning to research what happened to her killer so she may be able to rest in peace; Emily agrees it might be worth a try. The truth is, though, that Emily's real goal is to live a perfect life she never got to have, and she plans to do this by living vicariously through Anya—making her chase after boys, dress up, and be popular. Ultimately, Emily is only able to rest in peace after she understands that the perfect life she wants doesn't exist, and there's no point to envying other peoples.
  • Gym Class Hell: Anya paints gym class that way during the bleep test, although it's pretty standard otherwise.
  • Haunted Fetter: The finger bone, which Emily is attached to. She can travel wherever one of her bones is.
  • Heel Realization: Anya slowly comes to realize she's been a Jerkass to Emily when, after knowing Emily for two days and having her help with school and her crush, she doesn't even know her name yet. Much later, after Sean, and then Emily, shows their true colors, Anya realizes what a jerk she's been to everyone else too because of her poor attitude. This finishes out in the climax, where she at first denies being anything like Emily before admitting that, while she's not murderous, she's at least enough like Emily to understand her.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Invoked: Anya is of average weight, but diets stubbornly and sees herself as obese, with one panel having her picture herself as much heavier than she really is when she looks in the mirror.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Emily is this to when it comes to romance. It's one thing when she makes a simple assumption that Sean will make a good match for Anya, as she didn't know what he was like at the time. It's another thing when, after witnessing him cheat on his girlfriend with his best friend's girlfriend, she tries to shoehorn Anya to go out with Sean anyway because he was "interested" in her (despite that he was 'interested' in her in all the wrong ways.
  • I Am Not Pretty: While not as skinny as the likes of Elizabeth or Emily, Anya is nonetheless a curvy, fresh-faced young girl that in fact more than one character finds attractive. She nonetheless sees herself as fat and has a lot of insecurities about her weight.
  • Identical Stranger: When seen in flashback, Emily's crush (and murder victim) looks eerily similar to Sean, just with a slightly different hairstyle.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Emily's decision after catching her crush with another girl, locking them both in the house and burning it down.
  • Imagine Spot: Anya has one about her and Sean, as she prepares to impress him at Matt's party.
    Sean: "Oh, Anya, let's have an intense, spiritual relationship for no believable reason!"
    Anya: "Oh Sean, take me away!"
  • Insecure Love Interest: Deconstruction. Elizabeth Standard is one of the prettiest, most athletic girls in school, dating one of the more popular boys, Sean. Everything about her seems to be perfect, and despite how jealous Anya and the other girls are of her she appears to be a nice and carefree girl. Then at a party Anya learns that Sean is a creep who sleeps around with other girls (even his friend's girlfriend) with Elizabeth not only knowing but keeping watch; Anya, who come to the party to steal Sean from Elizabeth, couldn't bring herself to sleep with Sean and hurt Elizabeth. Before Anya leaves the party, she asks Elizabeth why she lets Sean treat her like that, and Elizabeth tells her that while she appears happy, she really is miserable and insecure, and the only person that makes her really happy is Sean. Because she loves him, or as she admits, thinks she loves him, she's willing to do anything to keep him in her life, even though his cheating and her covering for his cheating is hurting her.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Emily explicitly expresses the wish to upgrade her turn-of-the-century jumper, but she's apparently stuck with it. Played with later as she learns to change her poofy hair into a more modern style, foreshadowing her shift out of the 'innocent victim' persona.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Anya admits that's she's no different from Emily in some similar traits, she's right to point out Emily more than had her chance when she was alive and her dilemma is the result of her own rash actions and failing to grasp their consequences.
    • Also, even though she's brusque about it, Shioban turns out to be right about Sean being a creep..
    • When Sasha buries Anya's jewelry (again) as part of a pretend game of archeologist, Anya calls out her mother for not stopping her little brother. Although she's being impatient about it (and although Sasha's intentions weren't malicious), Anya has a sound argument that it is expected of a child to stop messing with other people's stuff when they are asked to.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Anya's definitely no angel: she lies about her last name and ethnicity, conspires to steal the boyfriend of a girl who has never wronged her whilst playing nice to said girl, ditches her one friend the moment she finds another friend who acts subservient to her, and seriously believes that nerds and minorities have themselves to thank for being picked on. She does show moral backbone when push comes to shove, though. She can't go through with having sex with Sean, out of pity for Elizabeth; apologizes to Siobhan when meeting up with her later; comforts Dima when he asks her how she manages to survive high school so well; and in the end stops lying about being Russian.
    • Siobhan at first appears to treat Anya poorly, judging from how much of her screentime in the book is the two of them bickering. But when one of the other girls tries to pick on Anya because she fell in gym, Siobhan immediately comes to her defense and comforts her, and her telling Anya that her crush Sean was a "dirtbag" was her genuinely trying to keep her friend from getting hurt. In the end, Anya is more comfortable with Siobhan, whose friendship with her is genuine despite their rough moments, than she is with the initially-friendly-but-controlling Emily.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Anya explains how she got bullied for many years for her accent, weight and clothes.
    "People might think five-years-olds can't be cruel, but I have some strong evidence to the contrary."
  • Kirk Summation: Anya's last argument with Emily. She sums up how basically Emily was trying to live the life she lost through Anya herself, but pointing out she lost her chance already.
  • Kubrick Stare: Emily has one in her news article picture.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Emily's excuse for burning a couple alive because she was in love with the boy and he'd rejected her, saying outright that love can make you do crazy things.
  • Love Martyr: Elizabeth. She'll stand guard while Sean cheats on her with other boys' girlfriends because she wants him to love her.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Emily's Evil All Along reveal. She was manipulating Anya to do what she liked in the world of the living.
  • Messy Hair: Emily's is described as 'dandelion-like.'
  • Nice Guy: Sean's pretty nice to Anya about her fall in Gym class even though all the kids laughed at her for it, among other nice behaviors. Subverted at Matt's party, where he's shown as a cheater who doesn't care who he hurts by sleeping around.
  • Noodle People: The thin people, like Emily, are really thin. Emily herself is also somewhat bendy looking, as if she doesn't have bones in her legs.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Emily is to Anya, being a ghost and helping Anya with just about everything in school after they become friends.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Emily and her parents were murdered by a man who they let stay in their barn one spring. Except not really, because the whole story is a crock of shit.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Taken to dark extremes with Emily. The guy she loved rejected her and called her she murdered him and the girl he turned her away for.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In the end, we get an explicit You're Just Like Me speech from Emily - and Anya partially concedes the point, stating that she is enough like her to at least understand her.
  • Not So Similar: After Anya leaves the party upon learning Sean is a creep, Emily tries to convince her to stay. At one point during the heated discussion, Emily tries to argue that she's just trying to keep Anya from ever being alone, as it was previously mentioned she lost her fiancé decades ago (even though this turns out to be false). To this, Anya has to spell it out to Emily that Sean is hardly comparable to her war-hero fiancé. One is only unreachable by sleeping six feet under, and the other is unattainable by sleeping with his best friend's girlfriend.
  • Oblivious to Hatred:
    • Dima, a little Russian boy whose family is friends with Anya's mother, was always friendly with Anya and appears to think they're friends. In fact, Anya hates him and tries to ignore him, believing he deserves to be bullied for being a "fobby creep". Later in the story, when Anya realizes how unfair and judgmental she has been, she starts to be nicer to Dima. She opens up to him on how she was also bullied as a child, telling him not to worry about impressing his schoolmates because being popular isn't really that important.
    • Anya is jealous of and greatly resents popular girl Elizabeth Standard. She has a crush on Elizabeth's boyfriend Sean and plans to steal him from her. Anya hates how everything about her is utterly nice, making her wish Elizabeth would show just once that she can be imperfect too. Elizabeth appears to be completely in the dark about how Anya feels about her, and treats her nicely. Anya later lets go of her jealousy and resentment of Elizabeth when she learns that Sean is a creep who sleeps around with other girls, while Elizabeth allows him to cheat on her because she is miserable and insecure without him - Elizabeth is willing to do anything to keep him in her life because he makes her happy.
  • One-Winged Angel: A mild form of this at the climax, when Emily hauls her bones up from the well in a last-ditch attempt to kill Anya. She looks like a ghostly silhouette with a tangible skeleton underneath.
  • Ordinary Highschool Student: Anya, Siobhan and their classmates. Evidently, Emily wants very badly to be one.
  • Product Placement: A boy throws a can of Crush soda down the well where Anya is trapped, which alerts her to call for help.
  • Prophet Eyes: Emily, due to being dead. Her pupils do show up at least once near the end, on a closeup of her squinting eyes, and in some flashbacks that show her being alive.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Zigzagged. When Anya's mom makes syrniki pancakes, she refers to them as сы́рники, but later when she trips over Sasha's marbles and says, " leg!" the word is fully spelled out in English.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Emily doesn't sound as excited as one would think she would when Anya says they can get started on solving her murder. Because she wasn't murdered...she was the murderer.
  • Scary Teeth: During Anya's final confrontation with her, Emily's teeth turn from normal to razor-sharp for stylistic effect.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: How Emily originally died. After burning the couple, she fled from the angry mob after her and fell in the well, killing herself in the process.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Emily convinces Anya to dress up and go to Matt's party. This is the result, although Anya wonders if she doesn't look a little "loose-womany". As it turns out her outfit did make her look more attractive, but not in the way she wanted. Sean outright says that Anya looks "really good" on that night in particular as he offers for her to take part in a threesome.
  • Shown Their Work: Vera Brosgol knows how to investigate old newspapers using microfilm, and she will make damn sure you do too when you've read this. With four pages, and a diagram. (Oh, and by the way, Anya's right: it will hurt your eyes. Don't do this for too long wearing contacts; and if you tend to have seizures, don't look at the screen while fast-forwarding or rewinding).
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smoking Is Cool: Anya and Siobhan think so at the start. Anya begins to realize it just makes her look like a jerk when seeing Emily smoke.
  • Soul Jar: Of a sort. Emily can't move very far from her skeleton, so Anya ends up carrying a bone from her little finger so they can move about together.
  • Sucky School: According to Anya, the private school she goes to is the third-worst in the state. It seems to be a pretty normal high school otherwise, cliques, mild bullying, and premature sex included.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Anya feels this for Emily after she takes control of her own skeleton and drags herself out of the well, bones falling apart and incapable of even forming any words with her decommissioned jawbone. Anya admits to her that she understands what it's like to want another person's life, but that neither of them can actually know what's going in someone else's head, and that they might be hurting just as much as you. She comes closer, puts her arm out, and gently tells her that what she wants, a chance to live again vicariously through Anya, doesn't even exist. Emily sheds silent tears and dissipates herself into the night sky.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: A sad variation. After Anya talks Emily out of her stubborn rage, Emily's skeleton falls apart and she evaporates in order to 'move on'.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: With her growing strength, Emily puts rat poison in the dinner Anya's mother was cooking. Anya saves them by "accidentally" dropping the food.
  • Unfinished Business: A rather selfish example of this trope. Emily never got to finish chasing boys around and living her life, so she begins controlling Anya's life instead.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Emily; her entire backstory about being killed by a maniac is a lie, and she was never engaged.
  • The Unpronounceable:
    • Anya's last name is Borzakovskaya. Her biology teacher has trouble pronouncing it, which makes the other students snicker.
    • Anya's mom makes syrniki cheese dumplings/pancakes for breakfast. They're never referred to as anything but сы́рники, making them look unpronounceable to the English audience.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Siobhan is Anya's best (human) friend... She just has a funny way of showing it. Then again, Anya's got a funny way of showing it too.
  • Weight Woe: Despite not being particularly overweight and even considered pretty by some characters, Anya sees herself as fat and refuses to eat her mother's homemade cheese dumplings because they're too greasy, even though she loved them when she was a little girl. Some of her dialogue implies that this is the result of being bullied as a child, as well as the elders at her church telling her she's too fat "while their ankles are spilling over their orthopedic shoes."
  • Wham Line: Two in a row:
    Dima: We're looking for a murder by a person named Emily Reilly, right?
  • Wham Shot: The newspaper article that Anya comes across as she researches Emily's murder, which shows that Emily was a murderer, not a victim. The subsequent pages show her burning a couple alive before she falls down the well and dies.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sean and Elizabeth aren't seen again after the party and Dima isn't seen again after helping Anya research Emily's past.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Anya is in love with Sean. But when she gets an opportunity to have sex with him, right after finding out that Elizabeth knows he sleeps with other girls and lets him do it, she can't bring herself to go through with it.
  • Who Dunnit To Me: How the story seems to initially go, as Emily claims to have been killed by a traveler who stayed at their house and she never found out what happened to him. Subverted however, as Emily's death was caused by her own accident. And even then, she was the villain.
  • Woman Scorned: Emily, after the boy she likes calls her ugly and goes off with another woman, burns their house down with both of them inside.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Almost said word-for-word when Emily crawls out of the well, bones and all, to try and drag Anya down with her. But it's obvious it's taking all she has just to move her remains. Her apparent weakness and anguish make this scene a bit of a Tear Jerker.