The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story

Authors: Silvia Vecchini and Sualzo
Year: 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4197-3368-0
Publisher: Amulet Books
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars
Content Warnings: Natural Disasters, animal death
Purchased or Received Copy: Received free copy from Netgalley

In a small Italian town, Giulia, Matteo, and Frederico live as three normal children. One night, a enormous earthquake strikes. Their homes collapse, along with most of the town. In the aftermath of the disaster, the community must heal as life keeps moving forward.

Matteo’s father takes their trailer out of storage, and he lives in a small community of people living apart from the rows of tents that the rest of the town moved into. Frederico searches the dangerous “red zone” for his missing dog. Giulia, Matteo’s girlfriend, supports her friends and tries to find a silver lining in their situation.

The Red Zone tells the story of tragedy and healing. As time goes on, the people slowly adjust to their new reality. The children go to a makeshift tent school and continue their education. Frustrated with the Italian government’s lack of action, everybody who can helps rebuild. In the midst of this tragedy, a community comes together to heal together.

While the story is heartwarming and sweet, it’s not without issues. My biggest issue is that the characters seem kind of flat. We don’t know much about their lives before the earthquake, so we have no idea what they lost. The perspective switches pretty often, so we don’t get much time to just sit in the moment. And I’m not entirely sure what Giulia’s arc was supposed to be. Frederico has a clear goal, to find his missing dog. Matteo is trying to keep his family together and support his little sister I guess. It’s difficult to follow the characters’ arcs in what could be a really powerful, human story.

Speaking of hard to follow, I have a bit of a complaint about the art style. It’s hard to tell some of the characters apart, so that made it even harder to follow character arcs. The most frustrating example was the similarity between Matteo and Frederico. Their designs were so similar that I found myself re-reading a page multiple times because I got confused as to who I was looking at.

Still, despite its flaws, The Red Zone was an emotional and heartfelt story. I still had fun reading it and I think it’s worth a look if it sounds interesting to you. It had a lot of potential but ultimately I don’t think I’m going to pick it up again.

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