Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

29 Dec 2015

"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..."

Oh please don't make me read some dull love story between two perfect teenagers...

"...but they are brother and sister." 

This is a young adult book about incest. I've said before that I'm intrigued by books that push the boundaries and deal with controversial issues, but this is somewhat different to a story about a transgender kid. This is surely one of the ultimate taboos and I admire Tabitha Suzuma for writing this book in spite of the inevitable judgements.

This is a book bound to spark debate. The only thing I have read on a similar subject is Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. Whilst each book has a very different author and target reader, both include a family without parents, left in a lonely and intense environment. However, Forbidden differs in that the characters are portrayed as likeable and ‘normal’, if from a dysfunctional background. 

Lochan, 17, and Maya, 16, are the eldest of five children. Their father abandoned the family five years ago and their mother has neglected them ever since, spending most of her time out and allocating her affection to alcohol and her boyfriend. Between the two of them, Maya and Lochan have taken on the role of parents to look after their siblings; brothers Kit, 13, and Tiffen, 11, and sister Willa, 5. Despite a lack of money and help, they try to keep the house and their siblings in some level of order in a desperate attempt to prevent the authorities becoming aware of their situation and separating the family.

Though the reasoning behind their relationship is never truly explored, it is indicated that the stress of their lives has brought them closer than usual siblings. Their closeness quickly develops into a desperate love. They know it is wrong and try to ignore it, but they cannot stop something that, to them, feels so right. The descriptive writing-style and alternation between Lochan and Maya’s thought process creates an intense reading, however, I was often frustrated that more exploration wasn’t given to the reason behind Lochan and Maya’s feelings. The lack of a convincing explanation sometimes jarred an otherwise believable, tragic love story.

Other than that, this is a shocking and extraordinary emotional journey which succeeds in sensitively exploring the complex subject of sibling incest without sensation.

Beautifully written with an explosive, harrowing ending.