She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But ...They are brother and sister. Forbidden will take you on an extraordinary emotional journey. Passionate and shocking, this is a book you will remember long after you have put it down.
Usually when the blurb of a book guarantees you will remember it long after you have put it down, I tend to take it with a pinch of salt since it is designed to pique the interest and draw in new readers. In the case of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, this comment is 100% true: I finished this book last night, at two in the morning, having been unable to put it down over the preceding four hours, tears wet on my face, and I don't think I will ever forget it.
The story of Maya and Lochan and their forbidden love is told in alternate viewpoints, which I think adds to the depth of the book. You hear their own impressions about the situation; their own battle against their feelings; you learn it is completely consensual. They truly believe they are falling in love with each other.
The subject of the book makes for incredibly tough reading, but Suzuma handles it with sensitivity and grace. Not once did I feel that this novel had been written with sensationalism in mind, or a desire to shock. It does shock - how can it not when dealing with incest? - but you find yourself drawn into the decisions that Maya and Lochan make. At times I even found myself questioning why it would be so bad for them to start a relationship, which then made me feel very ill (I think anyone with a sibling can particularly relate to me there). This most certainly is one of the last taboos, and Suzuma brought it into the light and examined it carefully and with logical reasons for every motivation her characters had.
Suzuma does an excellent job drawing these characters: they are three dimensional, fragile and very human. My one minor complaint was that sometimes it became a little difficult to hear the difference in voice between the two characters in the alternate viewpoints, but this was surmountable. Not only are Maya and Lochan powerfully-written, but Suzuma works hard to make the more peripheral characters people you believe in and want to read about. Kit, especially, is someone you hate at times, but empathise with.
Not only did Suzuma deal with the central tangle of incest, she also covered abandonment, depression and social anxiety: issues that a large number of teenagers will be handling silently. This is an incredibly powerful book that I think should be read by a large audience, so that they realise they are not alone when they suffer panic attacks and feel as though it is an effort to make it through each day. Suzuma pulls on her own experiences to provide poignancy and authenticity to the suffering of Lochan, in particular.
The ending made me cry - seriously, I bawled my eyes out. I find it rare that a book is so affecting it brings me to tears, but in this case I felt I had travelled a journey with these characters. I believe it is the highest compliment to pay an author when I say: I lived through these characters as I read Forbidden.
I would strongly suggest that younger readers do not tackle this thanks to the difficult scenes within Forbidden's pages, but I find myself recommending this to all other readers. It is tough, sensitive and very vulnerable. Essential reading.