(Don’t worry, this summary contains no spoilers!)
Writing The Illuminated Forest has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences in my career. If I never write another book, this one should stand as my definitive best (at least that’s how I feel!). There are so many emotional angles to it that at times during my presentations I struggle to even put its message(s) into words.
Although, I personally consider the novel “cinematic,” since it contains plenty of adventure, relationship turmoil and descriptions of the gorgeous geography of the island, I intentionally avoided making the narrative into superficial emotional bait (sorry, no vampires or zombies!). The story’s strongest points focus on the journey of a strong willed 12-year-old boy whose life begins to crumble and change beyond his control. As I see it, it is a true reflection of the way many teenagers face their realities nowadays, especially in Latin American countries. The story also highlights the relationship the boy forms with a stray cat (who seems to be facing the same misfortune), and the process of how they both try to make peace with the hostile world that surrounds them and help each other.
In an age when the majority of young adult books are centered on bleak dystopias and catastrophic scenarios, my vision for the novel is to guide the reader through an emotional journey without sentimental manipulation. It is mostly an introspective story of characters facing their own flaws as they struggle to guide others. My creative intention was always to help them navigate the depths of despair and the range of emotions children experience when abandoned, as well as the discoveries made on the journey into adulthood.
The story unfolds among the lush, tropical geography of Puerto Rico which has a life of its own, evolving and transforming as the story progresses. The Illuminated Forest symbolizes that ideal place in our hearts, whether real or imagined, where we “hide” to seek comfort during the most difficult moments of our lives (it’s here where all the characters find a piece of themselves). In my own words, The Illuminated Forest is an honest, introspective, and at times poetic vision of a changing world and how we make peace with these life-altering moments.
For some recent reader reviews, click here.