Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares | Tehlor Kay Mejia


Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Coming August 3, 2021 from Rick Riordan Presents; 336 pages

Content Warnings: Violence, racism, some graphic descriptions, fire, absent parent, hospitalization of a loved one, murder, death of a parent

About the Author: “Tehlor Kay Mejia is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult fantasy duology We Set the Dark On Fire and We Unleash the Merciless Storm. Her middle grade debut, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears, released from Rick Riordan Presents in 2020 with its sequel Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares to come in 2021. Her debut novel received six starred reviews, and was chosen as an Indie’s Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection, as well as being an Indiebound regional bestseller. It was runner up for the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative fiction, awarded through Dartmouth College, was featured in Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and O by Oprah Magazine’s best books of 2019 lists, and was a book of the year selection by Kirkus and School Library Journal. Tehlor lives in Oregon where she grows heirloom corn and continues her quest to perfect the vegan tamale.” (Bio taken from author’s website.)

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“Everything had changed. And Pao didn’t know how to change it back.”

Six months ago, Paola Santiago went on a death-defying adventure full of ghosts and creatures from the void. After returning to her normal (read: boring) life, Pao hoped things with her friends and family would change for the better. Except now her best friends, Emma and Dante, are barely talking to her and her mom has a new, irritating boyfriend. Pao feels like she has no one to turn to, especially when her nightmares begin again, this time taking place in a mysterious forest and centering around the father she hasn’t seen since was three. Everything in Pao’s life seems like it’s falling apart, and when Dante’s abuela falls into a weird—probably magical—coma, Pao knows it’s up to her to fix it. She embarks on a quest to get some answers, but with nothing as it seems, Pao must dig deep within herself if she wants to save everyone she loves in time. 

If you thought you knew everything about Paola Santiago and her world, think again. With this sequel, Tehlor Kay Mejia has proven that there is so much more to discover about Pao, her family and friends, and the void than we readers had ever thought possible. Pao is an exciting and complex character, and I loved following her journey to discover who she truly is. I also enjoyed reading about the other characters, both those we’d met before and those new to this story. It was especially fun to truly get to know Emma, since she was absent for most of the first book. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rick Riordan Presents novel without something magical, and I absolutely loved learning more about the magical elements and creatures of Mexican-American mythology. With chill-inducing thrills and all the heart and hope we’ve come to expect from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, this book is the perfect continuation of Paola’s story. 

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares releases on August 3, 2021.

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)

PRR Assistant Director, Wendy Waltrip