Lochan and Maya are siblings that have become the head of their household because of their parents’ divorce and their mother’s neverending quest to reclaim her youth through irresponsible and immature behavior. They act as parents for their younger siblings, feeding them, caring for them, and even forcing their mother to give them money for their necessities. Life is hard for them because they have to balance their time consuming home life and their school work, exams, and their lives as teenagers. Their biggest nightmare is child protective services coming in and splitting up their family, so they work hard to make everything appear normal, despite their lives spinning out of control. After they have been relying on each other for so long and acting as parents for their younger siblings, Lochan and Maya have become extremely close. The close friendship they had as children slowly evolved into forbidden romantic love. Lochan and Maya grapple with their feelings that are so contrary to the society in which they live and decide if their relationship is worth risking everything they’ve worked for.
Forbidden is about incest. I was initially pretty shocked that a teen author would be brave enough to write a book like this. I assumed that people would hate it and be shocked and disgusted, but the general consensus seems to be quite the opposite. I would characterize Forbidden as a more coherent, better written version of Flowers in the Attic. That was my first encounter with incestuous relationships in literature and I was surprised that throughout that series, I really wanted Cathy and Christopher to be together. There are many similarities between the two works (abusive mother, parenting siblings, worrying over separating their family), but Tabitha Suzuma infuses her story with much more realistic situations and emotions. My heart broke for Lochan, Maya, and their siblings. Nobody should have to suffer as they did, struggling to get the basics of life while their mother squanders their money on clothes, drinks, and presents for herself. The bright light for Maya and Lochan, as well as the readers, is their budding romance.
After Lochan and Maya had my sympathy, their odd and weirdly right feeling romance flowered into a deep and profound love. Incest is taboo in most societies and most of us wouldn’t hesitate to call it disgusting, but Suzuma made their relationship organic and like any other romance. Of course, they are fraught with guilt and worried about other people finding out, causing them to have many fights and trying to push each other away in an effort to uphold the values of their society. The chapters are alternately narrated by Maya and Lochan, which gave insight to their inner thoughts and conflicts. This aspect was essential in making the subject matter believable and palatable.
Forbidden is a very fast read that grabbed my heartstrings and took me on an emotional and complex journey. I would recommend it to those not afraid to put aside their own feelings on the subject matter.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins