Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma
Holy crap! This book is the very definition of a black hole of despair and nothingness. 
 
I'll be frank with you all. This book is about incest in a very graphic way. That's no surprise. It says so right there, inside the cover. But wow, never expected it to be quite so intense. 
 
The story goes that Lochan and Maya are a brother and sister desperately trying to keep their family together after their father leaves for Australia to begin a new life with a new family and their mother begins gradually to fade from the picture as she rediscovers her lost youth. The two oldest siblings step into the parenting role, and in the midst of it all find comfort, love and acceptance in each other until their relationship develops into a full blow romantic and sexual situation. 
 
I've read stories before in those trashy magazines that I love (you know, the ones made of wafer thin paper and costing about 69p) about brothers and sisters participating in this kind of relationship, but the story usually goes that the siblings were separated at a very young age and upon meeting again as adults fall in love. This even has a name! Genetic Sexual Attraction. It's a real condition! Apparently ..... 
 
Forbidden is desperately sad for the majority of the book. Who am I kidding? It's desperately sad for the entirety of the book! Lochan is a social outcast, consumed with worry for his family, his future and his education, unable to forge any friendships due his horrendous anxiety. He's a very sad, depressing character. Nothing great happens to him. He doesn't turn a corner. He doesn't learn how to cope. We don't even get the chance to discover what grades he achieved in his final exams. His whole life is one bottomless abyss, black with misery sucking all light and joy from the world, twisting the knife further into the wound until the end happens. Dear god, the end. I'll come back to that. 
 
The only relief Lochan is afforded is the enormously controversial relationship he begins with his sister Maya. And even that is doomed to fail. Maya has more of a spring in her step than Lochan. She has friends, she copes at school but still her character is pretty bleak. She has massive responsibilities for someone of only 16. With her mother either drunk or absent it is up to her and Lochan to take care of the three young siblings aged only 5, 7 and 13 years which puts an enormous strain on her and batters her confidence, which is why I assume she sets off down the road of incest .....
 
I'm assuming this is what prompted Lochan and Maya to fall into each other's arms as there really is no other satisfactory explanation. I was slightly puzzled by the reason for their lifestyle choice. I guess, yeah they are lonely and isolated to some extent. It is stated several times that they have always been extremely close. They have a very difficult life. But I just never felt convinced that incest is the next natural, logical step after all they've suffered. Jumping into bed with your sibling is never the answer you know! 
 
And the descriptions of the bed jumping were pretty head on. Yikes! The book felt super uncomfortable, tense and a little bit icky. So to read graphic descriptions of Lochan and Maya making out and having sex was just the cherry on top of a rather bitter tasting ice cream. I don't have a problem with sex, I love sex! But sex between siblings? No. Just no. I'm really uncertain about the author's stand on incest because she wrote these scenes in a way that was gentle, sweet and tender, and she spent a lot of time ensuring that Lochan and Maya made the reader absolutely clear about the virtues of an incestuous relationship, that they were deeply in love, that they weren't hurting anyone, that love should have no restraint, that love should be free ..... Oh-Kay.  There seemed to be a lot of support for this kind of brotherly and sisterly love. It was all a little bit weird. 
 
I guess it's always good to have an opportunity to think about something in a different light. It's interesting to learn a different side to every argument and it's always fun to read about taboo subjects. But Forbidden was very blatant. There was no rebuttal. It was simply a case of "Here's why incest is great, and everyone who opposes this incestuous couple is wrong." It was all a bit skewed. Was the author supporting incest? Simply offering an alternative viewpoint? I don't know. But I'd be very interested to find out. Biologically humans are wired to oppose incest so I am puzzled as to what this book is truly trying to convey. It was all a bit bizarre. It's almost as if the author is condoning incest, extolling the pros of such a relationship and wrapping it all up in a pretty box, complete with ribbons, glitter and a little note urging you to "Try it! The first one's free!". 
 
The writing was good, overwritten in places but generally held my interest. The dialog between the characters felt genuine and the relationships the older siblings had with the younger children was endearing and thoughtful. I felt some of it was largely unrealistic. The whole situation with the mother was strange. I didn't understand how the kids were surviving with basically no money. Lochan described asking his mother for cash to pay bills, but it's touched on so briefly that it was bit unbelievable. I feel like this would be more of a struggle if this were happening in real life and I also feel that it would have been more difficult for the family to keep social services at bay. The schools obviously had strong concerns about the fact that there is no parental guidance for these kids, and yet they do nothing about it. 
 
The end! Oh my god the end! Why?! Why take us on this whirl wind journey of forbidden love, doomed romance, pain, sadness, despair only to throw us at the wall at the end, watching us splat and then slide down in a sticky, flattened mess? Why?! The ending was bleak. The ending epitomises what I said at the beginning of this review - that Forbidden is the very definition of a black hole of despair and nothingness. Nothing good comes of anything. I read 432 pages of epically uncomfortable love scenes and suffering at the hands of a neglectful mother, and for what? To have my heart cut in half with a machete, that's what! Even Maya is left with an uncertain future. It's almost, not quite, but almost Romeo and Juliette. And ain't nobody got time for that! It was entirely unsatisfactory. It all started to slip, slide away as soon as Lochan was arrested to be honest. I should have known no good would come of that. Basically, if you feel like you have too much happiness in your life, if you feel joy fill your heart and light you up with the glow of a million fairies then, please read Forbidden. You will be brought back down to earth with a crash and forced to remember that sometimes things are shit. Other than that, I'm not sure I would recommend it. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't like it exactly (I mean, I gave it three stars .....), it's just that it is unwaveringly uncomfortable. I feel like I need to shower ten times now, and then have a good long hard think. 
 
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