Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Release date: June 2010 UK
Genre: Teen issues, Contemporary teen life, topical, relationships
Target audience: 14+
Summary from Amazon:
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. Forbidden will take you on an extraordinary emotional journey. Passionate and shocking, this is a book you will remember long after you have put it down.
I'm just pulling myself back together after reading Forbidden. Yes, it tackles a very conversial topic - consensual incestuous relationships. But the author does not do it lightly. There is so much depth to the characters in this novel and so much consideration of the topic, I really think Tabitha Suzuma deserves to be applauded for her bravery.
Lochan is seventeen, nearly eighteen. He is studying for his A Levels and wants to get into UCL. Academically speaking, he is a very able student. Yet he suffers an acute phobia of social interaction. He is fine at home with his family but outside of those walls he can bearly communicate. He doesn't answer questions in class; he doesn't chat in the hall ways. He lives completely inside of himself. Being forced into talking out loud brings on severely disabling panic attacks. It would be fair to say that he is living on the precipice of sanity. Even the slightest change could send him over the edge. Sometimes Lochan's dialogue is a little more adult than you might expect. At first it threw me off but I got to realise that his extensive vocabularly was just another side of his very complex identity.
Maya is sixteen. She is studying for her AS Levels. She is a much more social person than Lochan. She has friends, she lets people into her life and she is a very strong person. Part of the reason this story works is because Maya is very self-aware and very conscious of her decisions.
Lochan and Maya are brother and sister. Their life is not an easy one. Their father left them years ago. Their mother is a drunk who has decided to abdandon them for all intents and purposes. She is reliving her youth through her relationship with Dave and leaves Lochan and Maya to look after everything. They have three other siblings. Kit, 13, is struggling to cope with Lochan's role as the repsonsible adult. He resents his brother being head of the household. Tiffin, 8, who just wants to play football with his mates. And, Willa, 5, who is tries her best to do everything she is told.
Lochan and Maya together share the responsibility of caring for their younger siblings. They do the cooking, the washing, the bedtime stories, the housework, the food shopping. The list just goes on and on. Whilst trying to manage all of that, they are studying for their exams. I felt deeply for both of them. The author drags you right into their psyches so that you can see how much their sanity depends upon the support of the other.
But then one day their relationship develops. They have never really felt the same way towards each other as they do to their siblings, but then a physical closeness between them ignites a sexual response. They both know that an incestous relationship is illegal, taboo, sick, disgusting etc etc. This is actually what they say in the novel but they cannot switch off their physical, mental and emotional reponses to one another.
When I went into reading this book, I had so many questions in my mind about the way society perceives sexual relationships between a consenting brother and a sister. So many types of families and relationships are now viewed as socially acceptable in our society. I couldn't help but think really if they wanted to be together then why shouldn't they? Granted most of us have an inbuilt mechanism, a biological barrier, I guess that tells us our siblings are not attractive. We need that biological function for the survival of the human race. But if two people happen not to have it, are they really doing something so morally wrong that they deserve to be imprisoned? The book does answer some of these questions indirectly as Lochan and Maya discuss how the world would view their love. The law protects us against incest because such relationsips are more likely to be abusive and not consensual. I have to say that I am bursting with questions about norms and values, crime and deviance, freedom and abuse from reading this book. If you are at all interested in sociology, you will find this book completely absorbing. I have very little answers. Except to say that Forbidden is a fascinating, dark, emotionally challenging novel that left me sobbing and contemplative. I really encourage you to be brave and read it!
Thank you to Random House for asking me to review it.