FeaturedYoung Adult Fantasy

Paper Forests


Loved it! 😍

A book worth reading, dealing with the meaning of masculinity in a world that still forces unrealistic expectations onto young men.

Paper Forests follows the story of four children—Oliver, August, Gracie and Ansel—who wake up in a mysterious, ever-changing forest. It soon becomes clear that the children are in the forest because they are all on the verge of death, caught in purgatory. They begin to explore, hoping to find their way home, but in doing so learn that there is much more to the forest than meets the eye. The forest is ruled by a tyrant queen, Lilac Bonneville, who imprisons children to do her bidding. Oliver, August, Gracie and Ansel must decide what is more important: saving themselves or saving the children in Lilac’s clutches. At the same time, they must battle their own emotional and physical wounds spilling over from the real world—one that is slowly slipping away with every second they spend in the Paper Forest.

Paper Forests is an emotional story, filled with darkness and beauty. It has a beautiful cover that draws the reader in instantly—I will definitely pick this cover up on the shelves! The idea of the Paper Forest comes from the concept of a Paper Town:

"A fake town created by mapmakers to protect their copyright. As this forest cannot be proven to be real, it can be identified as a Paper Forest." (Page 83).

This is a wonderful concept, which provides the story a unique premise and a fantastical setting. Tegan Anderson writes whimsical, eloquent prose, bringing the dreamscape to life.

“The soft crystals find their way into my clothes and slip down my neck and stomach, turning my skin icy. I raise a hand to shield my eyes. The wind is ferocious, and the light reflecting off the ground is blinding. All I can do is bow my head until my chin touches my chest and continue walking.” (Page 130).

In other scenes, the terror of the characters can be felt through the writing, as they fight to fend off the abominations created by the mind of the tyrant queen. The dark, misty backdrop of the story creates great tension, adding to the overall feeling of despair that sits behind the light-hearted dialogue.

The narrative itself was enjoyable and interesting, keeping the reader wondering what will happen next. While the romance aspect of the story could have been stretched out a bit more to build up the emotional tension, the pacing for the rest of the story was well done, leading up to a chilling finale and a good setup for a sequel.

The characters are interesting and complex, each with a back story that seeps into their actions throughout the book.

Oliver, the protagonist, fights the insecurities that stem from his tragic home life and drug addiction. Little details of his life are revealed throughout the book, helping the reader piece together the life that he is fighting to return to.

August struggles with his identity, which he lost after his loved ones couldn’t accept his sexual orientation and forced their beliefs onto him. This leads to tension between him and Oliver, as August cannot fully commit to the expectations that Oliver places on him throughout their journey.

One character that could have used more development was August’s best friend, who often appears in flash backs. This is an important character who helped shape August’s identity before he arrived in the Forest, but little is revealed about this person (not even their name). More details would have helped the reader connect better to August’s past.

My main critique for this book is that the themes and writing may not fully suit the YA category. While the themes are handled carefully, I believe it is better suited to readers of at least sixteen and up. It is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by adults too.

Overall, a book worth reading that deals with important themes of identity, addiction, loss, and the meaning of masculinity in a world that still forces unrealistic expectations onto young men.


Reviewed by

I'm an artist, Graphic Designer and writer. I love reading books that are creative and visually detailed! I started my blog, Maan Atelier, in 2023. I love analysing books from an academic perspective. My Master's Degree in the arts helps me analyse both the good and the bad in the work I read.

About the author

On a cold Autumn evening back in 2008, Tegan Anderson began to write their first short stories, finding a more creative way to learn their spellings. Many years and many more short stories later, they haven't stopped for anything. Now, they're writing more than they ever believed possible. view profile

Published on August 17, 2023

Published by Little Oaks Independent Publishing

50000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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