Book Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

8349244Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Genre: Drama, Young Adult, Sensitive Topic, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 28th 2011
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Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

Forbidden is one of the most shocking, seemingly disturbing and life-changing novels I have read in my entire life. I loved it from the beginning till the very end and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, despite the sensitive topic. It is definately not for younger readers though. I think from age 16 and up this book is appropriate, but not for a younger audience.

The book is told from two points of view. The first narrator is Lochan, a seventeen year old boy who struggles to talk to people he doesn’t know, is brilliant in written assignments but too nervous to speak in front of a class, and hardly has any friends. His life at home isn’t all that wonderful either, with his mother always going out with her boyfriend Dave, getting home drunk and passing out on the couch or worse, not going home at all and spending entire weeks over at Dave’s, abandoning her children, and putting the oldest two – Lochan and his sister Maya – in charge of the entire household. Maya is the other narrator. She’s Lochan’s sister, only about a year younger than he is, and his best friend in the entire world. They’ve always felt more like best friends than like brother and sister, and with the added responsibilities of taking care of their younger siblings Kit, Tiffin and Willa, Lochan and Maya rely on each other more and more, practically taking the role of Mom and Dad in the household. With their positions changing, so do their feelings for each other and by the time they realise it, they have fallen in love with each other. The only problem is that their love is illegal…

The only other book I’ve ever read that dealt with a brother/sister relationship is Flowers on the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I thought that book was beautiful, and I could understand why Cathy and Christopher eventually turned to each other for the love and affection they so urgently needed. The situation in Forbidden is a bit the same like the one sketched in Virginia Andrews novel: a messed-up situation at home, two older siblings forced to take care of their younger brothers and sisters. I have to admit though, out of the two novels, I liked Forbidden the best, mainly because while I could understand the relationship in Flowers on the Attic, I did not approve of it. On the other hand, in Forbidden, I could both understand and approve of the relationship. Of course it is not something I would encourage, but in this case the loving relationship Tabitha Suzuma sketches in her novel is so heart-felt, so honest and so caring that I could do nothing else but support for them.

Lochan and Maya are two of the most interesting, heart-warming and loveable characters I have ever met. I instantly felt sorry for Lochan with his problem of talking to stranger, and their endless list of responsibilities at home made me feel sympathetic towards both of them. I also loved their interactions with their siblings Willa, Tiffin and Kit. Although the novel focuses primarily on Lochan and Maya, the other siblings are featured a lot as well, and I loved every single one of them, and instantly felt for them. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the situation must have been for this entire family, with a missing father and a mother always drunk or spending time at her boyfriend’s house. I do think it is plausible in such situation, that two siblings might find themselves feeling more for each other than society allows. Lochan and Maya realized their feelings towards each other early on in the novel, but their first reaction was one of confusion and trying to hide what they felt, which I think was the most natural reaction possible. But as their feelings increase and it gets harder and harder not to respond to them, they eventually give in. By the time I got at that point in the novel, I could understand why, and I knew that their love, no matter how wrong or disturbing, was real nevertheless. I was actually rooting for the star-crossed lovers at that point. It was a revelation.

Now, I’m not in the perfect position to speak my mind about sibling incest, mainly because I don’t have any siblings. I don’t exactly understand how much love one can has for a brother/sister and at what point it turns out to be too much. In general, I am of course opposed against the idea of siblings falling in love with each other and worse, starting a sexual relationship. But on the other hand, I would like to keep an open mind. I would like to believe that if it’s about two adults (or almost adults, like Lochan and Maya) and it is consensual, that it then doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong. I hope no one tries to kill me now, but I can’t honestly say after reading Forbidden, that it’s wrong by default. It will probably be in a whole lot of cases, and if siblings were ever to have children, the chances of them being deformed or handicapped are very high. That’s genetics and DNA telling us that it’s wrong. Society is telling us that it’s wrong as well, as have all cultures since the beginning of time. But get rid of what genetics and society tells us, and look at the true, profound and loyal love Lochan and Maya have for each other. It might not be right, but in my opinion, it isn’t exactly wrong either.

I’ve heard about this case in France a couple of years ago, about two siblings who had been seperated at birth. They never knew each other nor did they know they had a sibling out there. About twenty years later, they meet, connect on a deep emotional level, and fall in love. They even get married. And then, they find out that they’re actually siblings. But they love each other – they’ve even married each other. I remember that we had big debates on television and all then about whether or not these people should be allowed to stay married, and in which cases sibling incest might possibly be allowed. A bunch of hypocrites, conservatives and generally stubborn-minded people spoke their mind about the relationship openly. But my opinion is, that it’s none of our business. Those people were two adults who fell in love, consented with a relationship and even marriage, and then just because they happen to be siblings, all of that is thrown out on the table, their love is reduced to something awkward and disturbing, and society decided to take the choice for them. Why? Who gave society the power to declare who we can and cannot love? I know my point may be a bit controversial, but I find it true in this case as well. If Lochan and Maya both love each other, and if they both want to have a physical relationship, then why would it be society’s business?

I sincerely hope nobody kills me for stating my opinion here. I never really thought about the subject till after reading Forbidden and deciding that I really cannot say anything else about Lochan and Maya’s relationship apart from the fact that I found it very clear that they loved each other, that Lochan treated Maya far better than boys that age usually treat their girlfriends and that I believe their love to be pure. So who am I to judge pure love? Understandably, the issue of Maya still being a minor is added in the novel as well. But minors can have sex. Sixteen-year-olds can consent to having sex with their boyfriends/girlfriends, and no one in today’s society will care. Court can argue that Maya perhaps had no idea what the consequences of her consent would be, or that she was too young to decide about such things, but if we’re all honest we all realize what the consequences of said things are, and that at sixteen we are quite capable to decide about such things. On the other hand, I do know that most of sibling incest relationships are not consentual, at least one party does not want it, and that law officers are forced to take action against that. But if they are over sixteen, in peculiar circumstances, and they both want it – then why not?

I’m pretty sure people are going to kill me by now, but anyway. Forbidden really made me think about the subject, and it’s wonderful when a book does that. I would like to applaud the author for her immense courage for writing an entire novel based on a tabboo subject, and aimed at young adults nonetheless. Also, I would like to say to everyone that you shouldn’t let the sensitive topic or the amount of pages discourage you to read this book. The writing style is fluent, beautiful and enough to pull you in from page one and not bore you till the very end. I read it in one reading session of about three hours, so you know that means it’s definately good, interesting and suspenseful. The way Tabitha Suzuma deals with the sensitive topic is careful at first, a bit timid and some basic exploring – like Lochan and Maya’s relationship in the beginning – but then she dives all the way to the care of it. Even if you’re not exactly open-minded, Forbidden is worth a try. It will certainly make you think about things twice before stating your opinion.

Comments

  1. I completely respect others opinions but I just don’t know about this one. I agree about adults but sixteen year olds are still finding out who they are so IDK how I feel about this. If it hadn’t been for your review I would have said no way would I have picked it up. Now I might pick it up from the library or borrow from a friend.

  2. I agree with EVERYTHING you said in your review. You said it better than I could. This book is AMAZING. I never thought about the topic much either, but omg, this book makes you THINK. So amazing!

  3. Akshita says:

    This is so beautiful,,,,U know i felt exactly like that after reading this book,,,,and believe me,,m still reading it over and over again!! Maya and Lochan’s love was so so pure,,,honest,,,that u cant help but feel for it,strongly!! Love is just love,,,n when we try to classify it,,into right and wrong,,,,its never that at the end of day.

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