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REVIEW: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke & Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

REVIEW SUMMARY: Two excellent (and high-quality production) graphic novels from First Second Books.

Two interesting graphic novels from First Second Books arrived at SF Signal central recently, both featuring a young female protagonist. What’s interesting about reading these stories together is to compare how their respective protagonists are depicted. I must admit an ulterior motive: I was wearing my parent hat, trying to decide if the material was a good fit for my daughter. What I found was that each of these titles is intended for a slightly different audience.

The first graphic novel (on sale now) is Zita the Spacegirl, an exciting sf adventure story about a young girl who finds a strange device in a meteorite crater that opens a portal to another world. From that portal, a strange creature called a Screed abducts her friend and Zita tries to recue him.

In Zita the Spacegirl, the main character is a likable young girl who shows courage in the face of the unknown. She forms friendships with aliens and robots alike on the other world, all the while looking for her friend Joseph. This leads her from one adventure to another that was engaging and fun. She encountered things like a giant rat, robot spiders, battle robots, and the planet’s original inhabitants who are the only one’s not trying to flee the impending asteroid strike. The clock is ticking for Zita to find Joseph and escape back to Earth. It’s a good setup that propels the story along and also allows for a few good plot twists. The overall tone of the story is lighthearted, though not without its serious moments. Ben Hatke’s artwork is good and conveys the story’s events succinctly.

The second graphic novel (forthcoming) is Anya’s Ghost, a ghost story that starts innocently enough, but gets creepier as the story progresses. It’s about a high school girl who falls down a well and discovers the ghost of a girl murdered nearly a century before. When Anya is rescued, the ghost follows her, gets involved in Anya’s social and school lives, and ultimately gets a bit possessive about it.

In Anya’s Ghost, the main character is also likable, though perhaps a bit less of a role model. She’s a smoking teenager with low self-esteem who sneaks away from her doting mother to go to a party. Not quite the ideal image a parent wants to share with their kid, but it does allow Anya room to grow as a character. Anya’s portrayal as a teenager is spot-on, too, showing troubles at home (the aforementioned doting mother, a pest of a little brother) and troubles at school (boys, grades, boys, friends and boys). Anya’s relationship with the ghost is a combination of pity and friendship (the ghosts even helps her cheat on tests), but that soon gives way to some creepy behavior indeed. The tone of Anya’s Ghost is dark, suitably matched by Vera Brosgol’s superb grayscale artwork, and deals with more adult themes.

Speaking as a wearer of the parent hat, I would say that Zita the Spacegirl is more aimed towards the younger end of the young adult spectrum, while Anya’s Ghost is perhaps better suited towards older teenagers. Either way, both are excellent reads. (Yes, even for adults.) I’d give a slight edge to Anya’s Ghost if only because the themes were meatier.


  • Zita the Spacegirl:
  • Anya’s Ghost:
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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