This book will be released on June 28.
Let me tell you: I am going to buy Forbidden—print and digital versions. I’m going to read it then I’m going to cry all over again. Though I enjoyed it that much, it isn’t for everyone. Why? Because the love explored in this book is incestuous love.
Because their dad left them years ago and their alcoholic mother spends most of her time with her young boyfriend, seventeen year old Lochan and sixteen year old Maya have to get their three younger siblings to school on time, cook meals, and hide their home situation from Social Services while maintaining good grades. They act more like adults, partners, and parents than brother and sister. They depend on and help one another. They are each other’s best friends. They are each other’s worlds:
“Before there was anything, there was Lochan,” Maya says.
In beautiful and heartbreaking prose, Tabitha Suzuma shows first love, unadulterated. She draws the reader into the siblings’ world, illustrating how wrapped up they are in their hectic and tense home life. Everyone else—friends, teachers, neighbors—is second to their family. Even as Lochan and Maya try to fight their feelings, we see sacrifices made to keep the family together. The biggest sacrifice of all comes toward the end of the novel.
Suzuma, I believe, handles incest tastefully in this story. She focuses on how such a relationship can form, exploring the couple’s reactions to their life and illustrating how incredibly painful this road can be. I was able to see beyond the disgust and horror of such a relationship and into the love that formed it in the first place.
The rest of the family (excluding the selfish mother) is adorable. They each have a distinct personality that comes through. I found minor characters like Maya’s best friend and Lochan’s school teachers interesting. They faded to the background soon after the oldest siblings form their relationship, however. I suppose this shows how Maya and Lochan are caught in an inward, downward spiral.
The story isn’t without flaws, however. The narration alternates between Maya’s and Lochan’s perspectives. I can’t see how else Forbidden could be written; if it were in third person or only one person’s point of view, I don’t know if I would be as sympathetic to the characters. But Maya’s and Lochan’s narrations sound too similar. At times, I would have to look back to see whose perspective I was viewing. There was also a tad too much angst coming from Lochan, who would go from loving to, “No, we can’t do this.” I love how strong Maya is, though.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a heartbreaking exploration of a doomed relationship. As soon as Maya and Lochan accept their feelings, I knew Forbidden couldn’t end well. But as I was reading, I wished “if only, if only.” Hate me, but I think their feelings were true. Suzuma made me believe in the quote preceding the story: “You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”
Samantha Bagood is a freelance writer and designer and a student at Appalachian State University. She is currently writing her first novel.