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Monday 26 March 2018

Book Review : Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

I have taken pride in saying that all my book reviews, for the most part, have been spoiler free. And today I am preparing to violate that.

It genuinely serves twice as hard to review a book like Forbidden when the reader feels a multitude of emotions on a particularly taboo subject. I scoured Goodreads reviews, blog reviews, Booktube reviews and debated whether writing about this book would make me seem like a lunatic to my readers or would they be intrigued.

All I can say at this point is to proceed with caution and with a good measure of open-mindedness.

This book is about incest. Well, not really but it is about an incestuous relationship between 17-year-old Lochan and his sister, 16-year-old Maya. Tabitha Suzuma is brave to take on such a taboo subject and pushes the reader to challenge their morals on this truly 'Forbidden' case.

Our young characters are placed in a tumultuous family setting - their parents' marriage has fallen apart, causing their father to completely abandon them with no support or communication, we learn that he has re-married and moved to Australia with his new family; their mother is an obvious alcohol, absent from their lives while she spends all her time (and money) with her new boyfriend, as the book progresses, her appearances are scarce. So Lochan and Maya assume parental roles for their 13-year-old angsty brother Kit and the little siblings Tiffin and Willa. (ALL the characters in the book could do with better names, let's not fool around and admit this fact already.)

So you can kind of see how psychologically this proves to be a dangerous environment for all five of the kids - Lochan, with his deep and extreme anxiety leaving Maya as his only friend and confidant and Maya, who has to mature rather quickly in order to handle everyone's issues including Lochan's.

Now we know incest is bad. It's very bad, it's illegal and it's not normal. But as you begin to read this book, you just never see them as siblings at all, compared to the creepiness i.e Flowers in the Attic. The incestuous part only kicks in well into the second half of the book, both Lochan and Maya are tormented because they know its wrong, it's not normal and if anyone found out anything they would be at the risk of being separated by the state, serve jail time etc. The book by no means propagates the idea of incest but you also feel like you don't want to use the word incest for what Maya and Lochan have.

The interesting observation here is that while society accepts abusive relationships, broken homes, and abandoned families etc; is incest really the worst of the lot? (I swear I am NOT crazy). Like I mentioned, when you do read the book you also desperately want them to find a way to be together, also knowing the fact that it could never happen and its plain absurd. I just love it when books have that kind of power over the reader.

*The Spoilers*

It was not very long before trouble finds them and the consequences are grave. At this point I had semi-predicted the outcome, however, I was not prepared to read a complete, play by play suicide in the first person. And that is quite traumatic. Lochan gives up his life and takes the reader with him on how ends it all. This will physically shake you. It almost feels like all the happiness is sucked out of you.

You could see why he took this route as the only option to keep the family together but at the same time, you feel angry at him for leaving the family behind, for Maya to deal with this pain and for Kit to deal with the unbearable guilt. That would start a whole new argument about suicides and I'm not going to get into that.

A multitude of emotions, right there.

The problems: 

Overall I felt character development was poor. We know a lot about Lochan, what he feels and how he thinks but none for Maya and Kit. We don't know what Maya is like, what she thinks or feels, how she behaves etc. Same goes with Kit. We only see him as a sort of troublemaker and that's it; which I felt was not fair since being the middle child in a broken family is difficult.

The pacing is off for me. We have no idea what Lochan's and Maya's childhood was like, what kind of dynamic they had growing up, so it does seem very sudden that these feelings for each other erupt.

Since Lochan is 17, his development in terms of attraction to women seems late. Was there no other girl he ever got close to in his early teens? Same goes with Maya, surely there had to be some flirtatious encounter with boys her age other than the two set-up dates.

Regardless of all the flaws, I will still applaud Tabitha Suzuma for taking on her chances and writing this book.

Final Rating: 3/5

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