Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia is the well-awaited sequel to Paola’s story. Paola is having dreams again, and when Dante’s Abuela goes into a coma, it’s time to see why.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona, life is nothing like she’d expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what’s worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend. Even with her chupacabra puppy, Bruto, around, Pao can’t escape the feeling that she’s all alone in the world.

Pao has no one to tell that she’s having nightmares again, this time set in a terrifying forest.

Even more troubling? At their center is her estranged father, an enigma of a man she barely remembers. And when Dante’s abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman.

Pao’s search for her father will send her far from home, where she will encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Will the truths her father has been hiding save the people Pao loves, or destroy them?

Once again Tehlor Kay Mejia draws on her Mexican heritage to tell a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges.

“It was just seventh grade. There was no way it could be harder to navigate than a magical rift filled with supernatural monsters and a bloodthirsty all-powerful ghost, Pao figured.”

This was a fantastic continuation in the series about Paola. Mejia has done a great job of continuing the growth of our hero while weaving in the lore and myths. We get answers to some of the questions that we were left with within the first book, while still hinting at more to come. Paola and her friends are growing up, but things are not going well. The added tension of Pao and her mom’s new boyfriend also added a layer of humor to an otherwise rather dark story.

“You are a hero. You’re my hero.”

While the pacing of this was just as quick as the first book, I didn’t feel it was nearly as creepy as the first. For a book about a forest of nightmares, the nightmares seemed to take a back seat until closer to the end of the book. However, when it did all come together, I found the wrap-up really enjoyable. The arguments between Dante and Paola felt realistic for their age and their personalities. I do wish we had a little bit more of Emma in this book, but I understand that part of her growing apart from Pao was a piece of the plot.

“It doesn’t matter, Paola Santiago,” he said with the voices of four people layered over one another. “In the end, you’ll be dead like all the rest.”

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and our character’s growth felt realistic to their age group. While not as good as the first book, I wouldn’t say this book suffered from sequel syndrome. Paola was just as loveable as always. The lore in the book was well told, and I can walk away feeling like I learned something from this book.

“I forgive you.”

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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