Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Discussion: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads rating: 4.07 out of 5.00 (12, 230+ ratings)
Goodreads | The Book Depository |

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.

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.

Review by Chantelle


Sigh, I'm sitting here, (in agony) as I write an essay due in 12 hours, 8 of which I hope will include sleep, and my mood is slowly declining in a manner reminiscent of my frantic yet much-delayed exam cramming a few weeks ago. In fact, it was this naive, melodramatic depression that brought on the crazy desire to read something that would match how black I was feeling (not that logical in hindsight).

Let me set the context: after a day of studying, I decided to read If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin even though I'm absolutely terrible with sad books, but surprisingly, I cried but wasn't destroyed. It gave me a glowing sense of invincibility where I thought, fuck it!, I'm going to read a really sad book because I'm so incredibly tough.

Yeah... more like delusional! Nevertheless, enter: Forbidden. I remember having read the blurb for this taboo baby in early 2012. I'm not sure about you, but my first reaction was OH MY GOODNESS EW EW EW EW EW *closes window* *runs away screaming*.

Call me crazy but there's something about incest that just does not light my fire.
It didn't even make my generous to-read list.

But something about my blinding exam depression made me think I could tackle this one. And let me tell you, I'm glad I did, because it was nothing like I expected, and yet still everything that was promised.

If you want gut-wrenching emotion, a story line that will mess with your mind, and star-crossed lovers, this is the book. If you haven't had a book hangover, this is the book.

Originally when I finished, I shelved it as #amazing, #highschool, #stillshocked, #uncontrollablesobbing, #wtf-ending. And then the next day, I realised I couldn't stop thinking about Lochan and Maya, and certain parts, so I reread it again. #favourites. And then I stalked Tabitha Suzuma, and watched a book trailer for Forbidden that gave me feels and tears just from putting certain quotes to music and realised, yep, #Panaceacandidate. READ THIS! You might love it, hate it, be on the fence, either way, this book should be read because the language is powerful and the subject controversial.

Now for the discussion, things will be spoiled, I wasn't joking when I shelved this as #wtf-ending, proceed ONLY if you have read this book.

All page references will be from the Simon Pulse paperback edition pictured above!

Click me to read spoilers

"Sometimes love chooses you." Not going to lie, reading that on the cover of my beautiful paperback still makes me shudder a little. Incest is not something that is commonly tackled, but somehow, I truly believe Tabitha Suzuma succeeded in writing a convincing love story. I've read some reviews where people justify it saying Lochan and Maya only believe they fall in love because of the isolation created by their dysfunctional family. And while I do believe that was a factor, I have to say I disagree that it was the principle factor. To me, it was their common depression that linked them together, the ability to empathise with each other on a level that other's couldn't, and this was illustrated by Suzuma's powerful powerful prose, prose that rang so true it was no surprise that Tabitha herself has struggled with depression all her life. To me, incest was her tool to create characters that would inherently be misunderstood, whose situations would clearly have a me-against-the-world angst.  It created such an extreme dynamic, such incredible incredible highs (when they first kiss OMG), and indescribable lows (the end).

Lochan and Maya were so sweet. The transitions in POV were flawless. I liked them straight away and surprised myself with how much I shipped them. You really got the sense that only they could even slightly understand each other, they were the only chances at easing their loneliness and emotional burden. Even so, Lochan in particular had moments where he really scared me, I worried for him so much! His social difficulties, erratic and often rash behaviour were soaked in pain and fear that he couldn't communicate. Maya listened and it was so incredibly endearing.

I'm just going ahead and skipping straight to the middle of the book. You know that scene where Maya comes home from her date with Nico, and you're fist-pumping because Maya wouldn't even kiss the boy.... and Lochans waiting in an irrational jealous haze even though they haven't even admitted their feelings to each other yet.

"I'm back." 
Not even a flicker of acknowledgement.
"Is Kit still out?" I ask with trepidation, - p. 184

aw shit! Here we go, Tabitha builds suspense so well. *bows down*

"You only went out for dinner?".... "Four hours is a hell of a long time to spend over dinner." p. 184-185

My poor poor Lochan! He's so vulnerable, so locked in his own world and insecurities, so desperate. He keeps jumping to conclusions, he keeps lashing out, being aggressive to those close to him. He never really says what he means.

I start backing away toward the door, raising my hands in surrender. "Lochan, I don't know what the hell your problem is, but you're being an absolute bastard. What's happening to you?" - p. 186

Here it comes, the self-destruction. Brother and sister, against the world, looking after their 2 younger siblings while their mum is too busy hanging off the next available man.

"So you did sleep with him," he says flatly. "Like mother, like daughter." - p. 187


His words slice the air between us... Slowly, painfully, I turn. "What?" - p. 187

The heart break, omgosh, in just a few sentences, Tabitha managed to slice my heart to pieces. Of course Maya's hurt, and immediately Lochan realises his mistake and apologises profusely. The warning bells were there people, this boy is unstable, the mania is apparent but he's also so loving, and brave, just a boy trying to face each day as it comes. And when finally Maya erupts, omg, when she's shaking him, willing him to understand that HE was the one she loved - I don't think a fire could've stopped me from reading. And when Maya, dear lord she's courageous, when Maya is so moved that she's crying, and swearing that she never kissed Nico.

"This is why..." Crying, I kiss Lochan's cheek. "This is why..." With a muffled sob, I kiss the corner of Lochan's lips. "This is why..." Closing my eyes, I kiss Lochan's mouth. - p. 188

HOLY AJDFLKAJSF;IAEJSLKDJFA at this point, I'm so far gone from the person who ran away at the mere glance of the blurb. I'm so freaking invested it's not even funny. Point of freaking no return. And then comes one of my favourite quotes.

I'm falling, but I know I'm okay, because it's with him, it's with Lochie." - Maya, p. 188

"I know how he feels - it's so good it hurts. I think I'm going to die from happiness. I think I'm going to die from pain." p. 189

"How can something so wrong feel so right?" - p. 191

- End Scene -

After that, we're hurtled right back on to the Forbidden train, the ups and downs, so many ups and downs. It's exhausting, but in a way where you start to understand how they're feeling, and it's so powerful.

I'm tired. So terribly tired. It crushes down on me like an invisible force, obliterating all rational thought, all other feeling. I'm tired of dragging myself through each day, wearing my mask, pretending everything is okay. - Maya, p. 199

How can prose like this not resonate with people! I haven't read a single young adult novel that has come close to putting into words the psychology of depression like Suzuma does. And then we get to the parts where Maya is thinking about how Lochan will having to grow up and get married to someone else. So when she flippantly mentions that her friend Francie fancies him...

"she's a decent person, Lochan. You can't just dump her after a week."
"I won't." He looks at me, his eyes full. "I'll stay with her for as long as she likes. I'll marry her, if that's what she wants. I mean, at the end of the day, what the hell does it matter who I end up with if it can't be you?" - p. 207

GAME OVER. GAME FREAKING OVER. My heart plummeted. And some twisted part inside of me was jumping up and down, registering all the feels I was getting and thinking, my my this book is fantastic. But then of course, I'm dragged right back into the gravity of the situation when Maya... I don't know... attempts self-harm? I'm still on the fence as to whether I believe she did it consciously or not. But the way Lochan shoves his way to her...

This book is just so full of devastating/great/twisted/amazing moments. Their resolve, their determination, their passion. Gasping, I'm gasping. Their lack of restraint, the way they find solace and liberation in one another.

"It's all right," she says with a smile in her voice. "I love you." - p. 222

"Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves." p. 226

When they're happy, it's electrifying, but when they're mad, the results were devastating. You know what I'm talking about, that scene in the cemetery, where yet again, Lochan says the unthinkable.

"Maybe the rest of the world's right. Maybe we're just a couple of fucked up, emotionally disturbed teenagers who just --" 
He breaks off, pushing himself away from the fence as I slowly back away from him, pain and horror rushing through me like liquid ice.
"Maya, wait--I didn't mean that." - p. 251

Maya runs, I couldn't blame her, my heart froze when I read that. Words have such power, all readers know and believe that, but it was their ability to continually forgive each other unconditionally that sealed their status as a legitimate OTP (one true pair) couple.

Something inside me has broken. There are moments during the day when I just grind to a halt and simply cannot find the energy to draw another breath... If I keep breathing, then I have to keep living, and if I keep living, then I have to keep hurting, and I can't--not like this. - Lochan, p. 257

I'm going to discuss the end now, the ending that truly broken my heart. And I need you to keep the quotes above in mind when I try to make my point. Maya and Lochan have finally managed to establish harmony in their home, and are finally confident enough to express their feelings to each other. And KIT! Oh dear Kit, he's playing british bulldog, and they're all laughing, and Kit is shouting triumphantly that he's touched the wall.

It should be illegal to follow one of the sweetest, most genuine love scenes I've read with a "shattering scream". To have their worlds come irreversibly crumbling down, and Lochie is arrested, and we find out it was Kit who spitefully but naively ratted on them... and then Kit's running, and running but now it's his turn to grow up way too fast, and he's apologising, and crying, violently sobbing, and screaming for Lochie to come back... and all Lochie is trying to tell him is that he understands, and that it wasn't his fault, and that you don't let Kit lose...

And then of course, in jail, Lochie is faced with the dilemma that Maya isn't denying their relationship, and could go to jail as well. And he doesn't want to ruin her future, so he gives up his own. He hangs himself. I know so many people have a problem with this ending, and I'm open as to why. Whether it was cowardly or not, it took me completely by surprise, I was shocked, I couldn't stop crying. But couldn't you see the warning signs? It wasn't one moment of cowardice, it was part of his core beliefs; to protect his family. Such an acute exacerbation of an impossible situation, pushed him over the edge, it's not unfathomable. Not every one is strong, not every one is infallible, I think he was doing what he legitimately thought was best, it would've been so hard to leave Maya. To leave her after they loved each other so much. So no, I don't agree that it was cowardice.

In the midst of my sobbing, I had just one thought, study as much as you want, in the end, people live, and die, for love.

Overall: 9/10
Plot: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5


  1. I started reading this book thinking 'cmon, show me how incest can actually made for a GOOD story', and finished in tears - and I'm not a crier when it comes to books.

    Tabitha Suzuma is incredibly talented - I've read three of her books now and every one was fabulous. She really made me care for all the characters, despite their flaws.

    1. Yes!! Kat, I completely agree, somehow I came to care really deeply about such flawed characters, and ship things I'd never thought I'd even fathom. Her writing pushes boundaries in an area most authors don't go near, it was a complete surprise how much this book affected me, and you as well it seems!
      Which of her other books have you read?

  2. I've heard this was a great read but there's something about incest that makes me want to stay FAR, FAR away. I feel guilty for being so close minded but I know I would feel SO uncomfortable reading this book. As far as picking this book up, I'm not sure how I feel yet but I'm happy you liked this!

    1. Annie, I completely understand where you're coming from and you shouldn't feel guilty about it at all. I was EXACTLY the same until one moment of insanity that made me pick it up. You definitely have to be in a certain mood to take on a book like this, because incest is definitely not okay, but it's more so about two depressed people who feel isolated from everyone else and find comfort in each other, so while you don't forget that they're related, it quickly becomes secondary to how compatible and understanding they are of each other.

  3. Wow I'm definitely intrigued, not one for incest either but I'm interested to see how the author tackles this and how she writes the relationship. Some of the quotes you've included, oh my goodness they're so emotional and just woah. Will be keeping my eye out for this :)

    1. Soooo much emotion in this book!!! Thanks for stopping by Charlotte :)

  4. Only just read the review now hehe.
    Firstly, woah this is a long review/discussion.
    Secondly, LOL you used OTP
    Thirdly, that paragraph about the ending was amazing! Makes me want to reread the book. Seriously, this entire review was so well written!

    Nara out ;)

    1. aaaawww thanks Nara! You definitely need to reread this one :)

  5. When I first heard about this book I had the same reaction as you: "Incest?! EW!" but your review has definitely got me intrigued! Gut-wrenching? A story line that messes with your brain? That really pulls me in, so I hopefully I'll be able to give this book a go in the future, since I've been seeing loads of rave reviews for it as well. :) Wonderful review!

    1. Thanks Megan! Forbidden is definitely all of those things, read it and we can rant together haha