Anya's Ghost and Falling Skies

I read a marvelous book this week called Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol. It's a graphic novel and tells the story of Anya, a Russian immigrant who goes to a not very good private school and wants badly to fit in. She's grumpy, worried about her weight and doesn't appreciate her close and loving family. She has one friend at school, an Irish girl, and doesn't want anything to do with the other Russian immigrant, a small, dorky boy who goes to her church. Like many outsiders she's afraid that she'll be further tainted if she associates with another outcast.

Anya is walking through a secluded area when she falls down a deep hole and ends up stranded with no rescue in sight. (At this point she regrets throwing away the fattening breakfast her mother cooked for her.) She is horrified to discover she is sharing the well with a skeleton and the ghost of a young lady who died around the turn the twentieth century. The ghost, called Emily, is very friendly and soon makes herself indispensable to Anya. But is she good for Anya? The assistance she gives isn't exactly ethical and soon we start to suspect she may not be all that she appears.

The author, who posts on twitter as @verabee, has done a fantastic job with this book. Her characters are as well drawn as the illustrations, which are beautiful. I was particularly enamored of the many layers of Anya's personality. She's struggling so hard to fit in and deny much of what makes her interesting, which is causing her pain, which makes her struggle even harder. If only she could realize that the things that make her different are the things that are going to charm people throughout her life.

You can read the first seventeen pages here:

Falling Skies – the beginning of this new series brought to us by Spielberg was promising. The story begins after aliens have invaded, killing most adults and enslaving children. They've also taken out virtually all technology via what sounds like an EMP pulse. This back-story is told in the voices of various children as we see drawings they have made of these traumatic events. I especially liked the very first drawing, which is reminiscent of cave paintings. Unfortunately by the time I was nineteen minutes into the show I was disappointed. Men are fighting while women teach, cook and nurse. Dialogue is clichéd and the one guy who seems to know anything or have any kind of plan to defeat the invaders is shut down for being too much of a professor. Once again bright people and/or scientists are presented as uncool and told to stop bothering the in crowd. Blah.

By the end of the two hour pilot I was feeling a little better. The woman who looked like she was a nurse was actually a doctor and a couple of women were heading off on a rescue mission. I'll continue to tune in but I have some pretty strong reservations. Hopefully someone will punch up the dialogue and stop relying on the Big Book of Clichés. The Falling Skies official website is here:

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is from Carrie Ryan, who wrote the beautiful and haunting The Forest of Teeth and Hands. It's a short piece of zombie fiction about two teens trapped on a raft together after escaping from a cruise ship filled with zombies. I'm sure you can guess that one of them isn't feeling very well… (Be forewarned – it's pretty grim.) It's called Flotsam & Jetsam and you can read it here: