I recently got in a discussion about the benefits of paying full-price for a book when one could get the same thing at a significant discount at an online seller, and one of the things that came up was the definition of value. For some folks, they see value only in the final price of something, and — no kidding — look down on others for not having that same definition. Other folks, though (myself included) assign value to what a bookstore offers, and thus don’t have a problem paying a little extra for those little characteristics. For me, the ability to browse is one of those things, so if I find something I want by browsing, I reward the bookstore by buying the item there instead of just jotting down the title, going home, and then ordering the book from Amazon. It just seems right.
Anya’s Ghost is a book I never would have known about without browsing, and to be honest, it was Neil Gaiman’s praise for it (smack dab on the cover) that really sold it to me. It’s a nice little story about a Russian girl trying desperately to fit in with American culture, and the ghost who insinuates itself into her life. It’s a very familiar sort of story about identity and friendships — the ghost helps her to become popular and successful, but at the cost of her real friends, and the transformation teaches Anya what real friendship is as she finds out the truth about herself in the process — but it’s well done, and well illustrated. The use of the ghost as the catalyst was intriguing, if a little dark, and though there were a few moments that seemed a little cliched, it worked well, for the most part. The art has a simple look, with a very limited, muted color palette, but is still very evocative. Considering the subject matter of the book, the colors actually work very well in conjunction with the story. The story was also easy to follow, and the progression of the art made sense. Too many times I’ve read a graphic novel only to get lost in one or two scenes because the artist was trying to go for a more artistic look, or cram in too much stuff on a panel. Here, the artwork was just right.
So, I guess the question comes down to: Was it worth the extra money I paid to discover this book? It’s hard to say. The story works, and is well told, but it’s a little too familiar in its territory, even though it takes a different approach to it. It doesn’t take that long to read — I think it took me less than an hour — and I’m not sure if it’s a book I will revisit in the future. On the other hand, I’d like to see what else Ms. Brosgol can do, so I suppose if nothing else, I supported an author enough to encourage her to continue writing. That was definitely worth the extra $4.56 I paid for the book at Barnes & Noble, as opposed to Amazon.