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Graphic novel written by Vera Brosgol and published by First Second Books in 2011. 

The book comes across, at least initially, as a typical teen coming-of-age story. Anya Borzakovskaya is a young Russian immigrant, frustrated with her family, frustrated with high school, frustrated with her (kinda sorta) best friend Siobhan, frustrated with her body and her (lack of) love life and everything else around her. And then one day, Anya skips school, goes for a walk in the woods, and falls into a dry well in the park -- where she finds a skeleton. And the skeleton comes with a ghost attached -- a skinny little girl named Emily who’s been stuck in the hole for 90 years.

When Anya gets rescued, Emily ends up tagging along. Anya doesn't much want a ghost in her life, but she is helpful in certain ways. She can help her with answers during tests. She can find out when her crush will be out of class. She gives her tips on being popular. Emily wants to be Anya's friend, and Anya finds herself very sympathetic with the lost ghost. Anya decides to help find out who killed Emily. But that could be a problem, because Emily is keeping secrets and telling lies, and she's a lot more dangerous than she lets on...

I'm not sure I was expecting a lot from this when I first read it. It really starts out as the way we've seen a couple dozen other graphic novels -- misunderstood geek girl, unhappy with her life, grows up, becomes more mature, learns to appreciate the friends and family she has and maybe makes some more friends, too.

This one? It follows the familiar path for a while, and then, slowly, it turns into fairly straightforward horror. The end goal is still the same -- personal and emotional growth for the protagonist -- but it's interesting how much the suspense and fright ramp up, and how serious and powerful the threat becomes. There’s no gore or anything too intense for younger readers, but it's still a nice piece of low-key supernatural horror.

The characters are excellent. Anya and Emily are the obvious focal points, but Anya's mother and brother are also very well-created. Everyone else is fun, too -- there's not a dull character in the bunch -- snarky Siobhan, geeky Dima, skeezy Sean, beautiful but miserable Elizabeth, even the school principal at the end.

Vera Brosgol's art is moderately cartoony -- but as I know I've said plenty of times before, good cartooning helps make the characters and situations more universal, more appealing, and more emotional. And the art does a fantastic job of conveying the humor of the story, as well as the eerie shenanigans going on behind the scenes.

The book won a Harvey Award in 2012 for Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers and an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Young Adults (Ages 12-17). It also won the 2011 Cybils literary award in the Young Adult category. It was nominated for the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Best Graphic Novel. 

It's a fun, emotionally rewarding, and genuinely frightening comic. So go pick it up.

scifiquest

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