‘Alena:’ Advance Trade Paperback Review

Kids can be cruel, but rich, snobbish high schoolers in an upscale boarding school can be even crueler to someone who doesn’t fit in. Enter Alena: an introverted, misunderstood misfit who couldn’t be more out of her depths than at her new school.

A year ago, Alena was enrolled in a different school and had a best friend with whom she shared everything: laughs, hijinks, travel plans for the future… and even one night of romance. Alena, however, didn’t want more from Josephine. She barely wanted to acknowledge what happened between them. And so, Josephine declares her love for Alena and jumps off a bridge to her death.

Now, in her new school, Alena is an outcast, surrounded by preppy kids who don’t take kindly to those in lower economical and societal classes. Relentlessly taunted and teased, Alena takes solace in her continued close friendship with Josephine, now a ghost. As Alena forms a friendship and relationship with one of the boys at the school (Fabian), Josephine’s jealousy grows. Not only does she want the mean girls to pay for their crimes against Alena, but she wants Alena all for herself.

Created by Kim W. Andersson, Alena was originally released in Sweden in 2011. Dark Horse Comics now brings this exciting graphic novel to the United States, following a successful showing of the movie of the same title at the 2016 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The arrival of this horror graphic novel in the States is sure to be met with the highest of praise.

The theme may sound a bit familiar (bullies, revenge), but Andersson treats it with such a reverence for the horror genre that it seems fresh and invigorating. The suspenseful, fast-paced storytelling makes for a page-turner that one cannot put down. The touches of romance and the off-kilter comments in Alena’s subconscious throughout the story help to ease the reader throughout the rougher, more painful parts of bullying, where one just wants to whisk Alena away from all the bad. The beautiful art helps portray a defenseless victim, while creating bullies who were just as ugly outside as they were inside. A few twists and turns and a nail-biting ending only endeared me more to the graphic novel and makes this can’t-miss read one of my favorites of all time.

Relatable, enjoyable, and murderous fun, Alena is a sweet treat to be relished over and over by fans of horror and vengeance comics.

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