Book Review: Forbidden

Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Published: UK: Definitions (May 27, 2010) / US: Simon Pulse (June 28, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Purchased in store
Young Adult  * Romance 

Description from Goodreads:
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. 


Before I begin to review this book, and tell you why I thought that this was one of the best books I've read, I want to reiterate that this book does contain mature themes. It deals with the incestuous relationship between a brother and sister, so parents or sensitive readers should take note.

This is a difficult review for me to write because I can't quite explain how I loved this book to someone who hasn't read it. Just to get it out of the way, the novel doesn't gloss over the aspects of Lochan and Maya's relationship. It's not just a crush. They are properly in love, and strangely... I really wanted them to be. Like for most people, incest is one of those universal taboos for me. So, I was half-intrigued, half-skeptical going into reading this , but Tabitha Suzuma nails it. There is something about the way she writes these two characters that forces you to root for them. A few chapters into the book, I completely abandoned my, "Ewws," for, "Awws," and was already hoping for a way that the two of them could find a way to be together without hiding. The romance is sweet, believable, and paced extremely well -- they aren't making out in chapter 2 or declaring eternal love in chapter 3. Forbidden is a long enough book that Suzuma can take her time establishing Lochan and Maya as separate characters and individuals and make the romance grow out of that slowly. I promise you, I went into this young adult romance thinking that my stomach might turn at the idea of sibling love and came out of it wanting even more moments of them together.

Suzuma does a great job with characters in general. Besides Lochan (my favorite!) and Maya, the other characters in their family are multi-dimensional and interesting. Particular favorites include their alcoholic mother, who was so nuanced, and Kit, their rebellious younger brother. I loved that the alcoholic mother wasn't of the stereotypical scream-and-shout-and-abuse variety. The way her addiction to alcohol made her an absent parent and tore her family apart was different and believable, and caused enough harm to facilitate Lochan and Maya's unusual relationship. Kit, on the other hand, was a fascinating character because he was the 13 years old middle child, in that awkward stage between boy and man. As much as I agreed with or accepted the ending of the novel, the one thing I would have wanted would be more of Kit -- such a fascinating character.

The writing was also really phenomenal. It's told in alternating POV between Lochan and Maya, which is so difficult to manage sometimes, but worked really well in this one. Each of their voices is very distinct and I really like it when authors can pull this off. (If you are a fan of Maggie''s Stiefvater's Shiver or Malorie Blackman's Naughs and Crosses, then you'll appreciate this style of storytelling.) I loved getting inside the heads of these two complex characters and listening to -- or reading, rather -- how they justified their love, criticized themselves, felt cheated or dirty.... Given the subject matter of the novel, it really helped to be told in first person POV.

There's really not much more I can say about this. The novel is a beautiful romance that might step on some toes, but ultimately surprise you. There isn't anything like this out there (that I've read anyway). This novel just represents what I love about fiction. It turns something vile, unexpected, unconventional, and ultimately "wrong," into something beautiful and poetic. I hope you give Forbidden a chance. It's certainly a risky novel, but the reward is so great.

Tabitha Suzuma is the award-winning British author of several young adult novels with difficult subject matter, including mental illness and depression. You can follow Tabitha on twitter: @TabithaSuzuma or on her blog: 

Her official website is: