The Hills of Estrella Roja

Clarion. Aug. 2023. 400p. pap. $21.99. ISBN 9780358567028.
Gr 8 Up–Eleven years after high school senior Marisol (Mari) Castillo moved away from her family’s secluded hometown of Estrella Roja, TX, news of the death of her abuela sends her, her mother Yolanda, and her little sister Ana on a trip back. At the same time, Kat Fields, a college student and co-host of the obscure podcast Paranormal Texas, receives an anonymous tip about the so-called “devil’s lights,” possible paranormal activity, which appear above the hills in Estrella Roja every night. Much to the chagrin of the townsfolk, when Mari and Kat’s paths cross, they begin to investigate what may be causing the lights and discover there’s more to the small town than either could have predicted. A psychedelic color scheme in the early pages makes way for muted daytime scenes with sporadic pops of vivid, warm color, while nighttime renderings bring a collection of purples that set the stage for magical mysteries to be slowly revealed. The story has spooky but never terrifying moments, and the illustrations are both detailed and unpolished, giving an underlying sense of chaos and instability that runs parallel to Mari and Kat’s growing unease. Moments of romance exist between Mari and Kat but are secondary to the main plotline. Nonbinary, bisexual, and lesbian representation are included, as well as a variety of body types. Secondary character Clem appears Black, while Mari and her family are assumed Latinx.
VERDICT A winding paranormal mystery about loyalty, bravery, and familial trials. Recommended.

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