“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.”
In the aftermath of reading Forbidden, I was gutted. My heart felt like a tissue being torn at; one tiny piece at a time falling to the floor. I was so unaccountably shaken by the ending that I had to make it impossible for myself to dwell on it: I pushed through one menial task after the next; I forced myself to pick up another book, something light and comforting. And whenever I lapsed, thought back to a scene, to one of the final scenes, I slammed a mental wall down. There was finally no other option: I had to move the book, innocuous and unpretentious in appearance, from my line of sight.
But I would not take back reading this book for anything.
Forbidden is not about incest. It is, because it’s there, but to hold up that one subject as the pivot on which the story turns would be wrong. The story shines a painful, bright light on neglect: the totality of one parent’s absence; the emotional withdrawal and mental abuse of the other. It holds a magnifying glass over teenage social anxiety and stress. It demonstrates how responsibility, however willingly shouldered, can slowly suffocate dreams and what-might-have-beens. And it accomplishes all of that and more utilizing a dual narrative that is distressingly hopeful at times, but aching and tense and hopeless more often.
There is a lot of repetition of thought in Forbidden; that’s something that would, in any other novel, itch at my skin like a new wool sweater. In this novel it wound me up; pulled me into the moods, fears, happiness and longing that Lochan and Maya sheltered and attempted to conceal. I had moments of certainty: I couldn’t continue reading. In the pit of my stomach, which felt both weightless and coiled, I knew I couldn’t – wouldn’t – stop. I was almost too emotionally engaged with these characters, this fictional family. My wrecked self was the result.
It needs to be said that whenever a rational, intellectual argument against a few of the events in the story rose in me, the visceral, emotional pull of it choked it back. It also needs to be said that the story brought me to a point in which I was hoping – with some desperation – for there to be a way for Lochan and Maya, a mistake or loophole that would allow them to be. Having since read several other reviews of this title, I know I wasn’t alone in that.
Tabitha Suzuma’ s Forbidden offers up powerful, gripping storytelling and unforgettable characters in Lochan and Maya.
Forbidden is available in the UK now (I purchased my copy from The Book Depository, though it looks like the book is no longer available there); it will be released in the US this June.