Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden it would be a hard book for me to review. The main reason is because of the disturbing love story. Disturbing because a brother and sister fall in love with one another. Forbidden is also being marketed as a Young Adult novel and to be honest, this makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because of incest being used as romantic trope shown in graphic detail. Nothing is left to the imagination here. We see the brother and sister engaging in sexual acts; much like a man and woman would who are attracted to one another and want to be intimate. But regardless of this taboo relationship, the main question is whether or not Tabitha Suzuma makes a good case for these two siblings to be together in a romantic way. Has she succeeded based on her writing?
Unfortunately for me she hasn't. Bad characterization and lackluster writing overall, where I just couldn’t connect with the story, makes Forbidden a fail. Forbidden would be perfect as fan-fiction and one submission of many on the Literotica website where you can find thousands of incest romances.
Forbidden is dark and depressing and left me cold because I was so disinterested from the get go. I blame this on Lochan, the seventeen year old in charge of his four younger siblings because his mother is a drunk and prefers to go out and party instead of staying home and taking care of her family. Lochan’s father upped and left years before. Lochan is so misunderstood, or so he thinks. He’s socially stunted. He can ace any test or paper, but when it comes to public speaking, he doesn’t just tense up, but almost passes out. He’s a strange duck, even though he’s gorgeous. He doesn’t have any friends and never dates. The one person who does understand him is his sixteen year old sister Maya. These two are best friends and rely on one another to keep their home together while going to school. They pretend that everything is fine. But it’s not. Their thirteen year old brother is turning to drugs and gangs and they barely have any money for food or clothes.
Maya has a more positive outlook on life. She has friends, enjoys school and taking care of her siblings. She sees how special Lochan is and wants to him to excel and go off to college and experience life. She pushes him to find some joy in something, but he constantly rejects her optimism.
Lochan is dying inside and feels hopeless, that is until one night after Maya goes on a date, he explodes. Jealousy rears its ugly head. He can’t stand that Maya would be interest in dating boys. And after a heated discussion between them, they kiss passionately. From this point on Lochan and Maya are about to walk down a dangerous path because a brother and sister can’t love one another in a sexual way. Maya wants to have a go at it while Lochan is more sensible and rejects the idea. But he can’t help himself and every time he and Maya now kiss and touch, he feels brand new and starts to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for him. But they must keep their love hidden because if they’re found out, their whole world could come crashing down upon them and they would be separated for ever, or worse.
Forbidden was a big disappointment for me. I really tried to suspend my disbelief in regards to dynamics of Lochan and Maya’s love affair, but the writing wasn’t engaging at all and I felt bored by what I read. Lochan’s attitude was the biggest culprit in making Forbidden a dud. His constant whining about how horrible his life was because of his loser of a mother and father who rejected his family grated on my nerves. He’s unbelievably selfish and I expected him to fall to the floor like a four year old who has a tantrum when their favorite toy is taken away from them. The set up leading to Lochan and Maya falling in love was poor. It happened out of the blue and there was no real reason given why these two would go past that point of no return. I think Tabitha was trying to show how a product of one’s environment can make them do questionable acts, but it had a weak foundation from the start.
I expected to be shocked by what I read, but I just couldn’t connect with any of these characters, least of all Lochan, who has no redeemable qualities and is essentially a sad sack. Maya was a bit better, but she comes across as a martyr who feels she must save Lochan from the despair eating away at his soul.
Forbidden has overwhelming angst, over the top push and pull between Lochan and Maya where they just can’t give into their yearnings for one another because it’s so wrong. And when they do, and the ball drops on them, I felt nothing. Even the Romeo and Juliet type ending made me roll my eyes. It comes as no surprise that this story ends tragically because Lochan and Maya have broken so many moral laws. But why can’t they go off in the sunset together? Their lives are so horrible as it is, so why not allow them to be together and find a little happiness where they can even if it’s sexually? Giving a book a tragic ending after putting these characters through such heartache doesn’t make it thought provoking, powerful or compelling. It comes across as contrived.
A part of me feels like a hypocrite for having such a strong opinion against Forbidden. I admit I was once a fan of VC Andrews, who is well known for her incestuous story lines. And one of my all-time favorite books, now considered a classic, is Vladimir Nabokov’s 1954 ’s Lolita that’s all about pedophilia between a fifty something man and a thirteen year old who uses him for her own gains. And I do support books that bring to light topics that some may wish are better left unknown. Unfortunately Forbidden is nowhere successful in this aspect. I wish I could find one positive thing to say about this book, but I can't. (Simon Pulse, available June 28th)
Big pass on Forbidden.
Final Grade: D-