Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (2011)

I know all about being ashamed of a family member – the number of times I’ve wished my mother would act her age in public, if not in private. It’s horrible, being ashamed of someone you care about; it eats away at you. And if you let it get to you, if you give up the fight and surrender, eventually that shame turns to hate (p 39).

forbidden_suzumaSeventeen-year-old Lochan has been the man of the house since his father ran off to Australia with his lover. For five years, he’s taken care of three children with the help of his sister. Maya, thirteen months his junior, has always been more like a friend to Lochan than a sister. While their alcoholic, childish mother neglects them, Maya and Lochan babysit, cook, clean and basically run the household.

Stressed-out with only each other to rely upon, Lochan and Maya to become inseparable and eventually, the two begin an incestuous relationship. Hyper aware of the taboo they are breaking, they try – unsuccessfully – to keep their physical relationship mild.

The Kirkus review of Forbidden calls Suzuma’s lengthy exposition, heavyhanded and I couldn’t agree more. This novel could easily lose a hundred pages. It’s the kind of wordiness and verbal garbage the Twilight fans love but that I find so loathsome. Hemingway said, “If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”  This novel is all above water, so to speak.

Not that the books is without its poignant scenes, among them Lochan’s panic attack and Kit’s little rebellions. I agree with Kirkus’s assessment that Kit is the best developed character and, sadly, we see very little of him.

I found the ending somewhat unsatifying. The mother showing up on cue, stealthily and lucid? Lochan’s actions… I can almost buy into. He clearly had problems but Maya seemed a little overly dramatic, though I suppose everthing is the end of the world to teenagers. Lochan should have taken the lawyer. I can’t see a kid as smart as he apparently was passing on a chance for representation.

Overall, an uneven read in need of a lot of editing but I can see the teen appeal. Read instead: Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes, Doing It by Melvin Burgess or Teach Me by R. A. Nelson.

Read other reviews:
Afterglow Book Reviews
Kirkus
Novel Novice
Portrain of a Book
The Compulsive Reader

Advance Reader Edition | June 28, 2011 | Simon Pulse | 464 pages | ISBN: 978-1-4424-1995-7 | $16.99

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