Why is that such a crime?"
She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed.
He is seventeen, gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future.
And now they have fallen in love. But... They are brother and sister.
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When I was sent a copy of Forbidden for review I really didn't think it would be my kind of story. I just really didn't see how I could relate to characters involved in incest as it is something that I feel so strongly against. Whenever I've heard the word incest I've always considered it to be a form of abuse, the fact that it could be consensual had never really occurred to me. I'm so pleased that I overcame my reluctance and actually read this book because I know it is one that will haunt me for a long time to come and I don't think I'll ever forget Maya and Lochan. This story has taken everything I thought I knew about incest and turned it upside down. Yes, I still feel that incest is wrong but I don't think I've ever wished so hard for a happy ending as I did when I was reading Forbidden, even though I knew before I started reading that the likelihood of that happening was practically zero.
Lochan is seventeen and his sister Maya is just sixteen, they should be out having fun with friends like any other teenagers but their reality is very different. Their dad left 5 years ago to move to the other side of the world with his new family leaving Lochan and Maya with a useless alcoholic mother and 3 younger siblings to take care of. Lochan and Maya have been caring for their brothers and sister ever since while their mother stays out with her boyfriend often not returning home for weeks at a time. Since the ages of 11 & 12 they have been looking after 3 younger children - cooking, cleaning, taking them to school, helping with homework and even dealing with bedtimes. Basically they became parents themselves at such a young age and have been working as a team to keep their family together ever since. It's no wonder they have developed a close bond and think of each other as best friends and partners rather than brother and sister - would any of us feel any differently in the circumstances?
Maya has still managed to develop into a confident young woman with friends at school but you wonder how much of that is due to Lochan's influence - as the oldest he has taken on more of the responsibility. Lochan on the other hand suffers from a serious social phobia, completely unable to speak to anyone outside of his family, suffering from panic attacks if he just has to speak in class. Unable to make friends his own age the only person who truly understands him is Maya.
Tabitha Suzuma has taken a difficult and taboo topic and handled it with sensitivity and tact. The fact that she managed to make me empathise with both of the characters despite my built in abhorrence to incest just proves what a good job she did with this book. She uses dual narrative with chapters alternating from Lochan & Maya's perspective which allows you to see what each of them are thinking. This is what makes the story work so well as you can clearly see that this isn't a case of one of them abusing the other, it is a case of mutual caring and a love that has developed where it shouldn't. I honestly think if they had been given a normal upbringing then they would never have fallen for each other the way that they did. It was heartbreaking to see how hard life was for them both and it made you thankful that they at least had each other to lean on. I really wanted to see them have a happy ending and find some way to be together despite the odds stacked against them. That was something I really hadn't expected to feel when I first picked up the book.
All of the characters in the story are so real to me that I still can't stop thinking about them even now. Lochan and Maya worked so hard to keep their family together and while I understand that they didn't want to be split up from their siblings I can't help thinking that things would have been so much better for them if social services had been involved and they had been taken into care. Kit is a typical 13 year old, he resents his mother's disappearances and doesn't like the fact that his brother and sister are setting the rules for him. Having fallen in with the wrong crowd at school he deliberately rebels against Lochan and pushes the boundaries in a way I think most teenagers do with their parents at some point. Tiffin is a boisterous and hyperactive 8 year old and Willa is an adorable 5 year old who I desperately wanted to comfort.
Forbidden is a heartbreaking story that I know I will never forget and one that I would highly recommend for older teens and adults even if you find the subject matter offensive. It is a book that will leave you with many questions and feeling like you've been on an emotional journey, just be warned that you will need tissues by the end. For a book that I didn't even think I wanted to read it has turned into my favorite book of the year so far and one that I know will stay with me for a long time to come. I'm very much looking forward to trying more books by this author.
Source: Thanks to RHCB for sending me this book for review
Other reviews of this book:
Trisha's Book Blog
Ramblings of a Book Bitch
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.