Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Hills of Estrella Roja by Ashley Robin Franklin


THE HILLS OF ESTRELLA ROJA is a queer college-age YA graphic novel set in Texas, with supernatural elements. Marisol is forced to return to the mysterious town she hasn't been in since she was a child after the death of her grandmother. Kat, on the other hand, is a paranormal podcaster who receives a mysterious email urging her to go to the same town to investigate something called "devil lights" and various mysterious disappearances.

Estrella Roja, which means red star in Spanish, is creepy right off the bat. They don't get a lot of outsiders, so there's a lot of ominous staring and whispered conversations that the girls clearly aren't meant to hear. Kat ends up approaching Mari because they lock eyes at a diner and she seems the friendliest out of everyone. They end up hitting it off, as two queer girls in a weird situation. When they go to the library, they find old articles hinting at murder and occult phenomena. Mari finds creepy photographs and journals in her aunt's house. Basically, SHIT GETS REALLY WEIRD.

I don't want to spoil anything, but this was a pretty cute read. Even if you don't like horror, nothing too scary happens. (I'm not a fan of horror or gore-- I will be very quick to nope out if heads start rolling.) My ARC was not full-color, but I liked the art in the few sample pages I had. It's done in that minimal, indie style, which is common in imprints like First Second. I also liked that one of the girls was Latina and a lesbian, and the other girl was bisexual and had a non-binary best friend. The diversity felt super casual, and added to the story-- especially with regard to Latinx folklore. Tonally, it reminded me a lot of the '90s Scooby Doo movies, like Zombie Island and Witch's Curse

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

4 out of 5 stars

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