Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Forbidden

Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Find it on Goodreads!

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.

The Story (No Spoilers):
So, let's forget for just a second the whole "incest" portion of this story. Because--really? I don't have a brother, and if you've ever read a V.C. Andrews book, you're probably pretty immune to the concept of it being shocking. (My husband, btw, has a younger sister, and he is very quick to reassure me the idea of it has never crossed his mind and that he finds the idea of it unappealing, but that is not the point.)

So now that we're not thinking about, "ZOMG THEY'RE BROTHER AND SISTER THAT'S NASTY!", let's focus on the plot. Because under the incest storyline of this book is a story about two kids who are fantastic parents at the tender age of 16 and 17 to younger children ages 5, 8, and even 13, forced into the roles by a father who abandoned them and a mother who is hardly ever around. They work exceptionally hard at maintaining the structure of their family unit, making sure the children are fed, clothed, to school on time, and homework completed. They strive to keep the surface appearing in-tact, for fear social services will come and break their family apart.

The Characters

The 16 year-old main female character of the book. She tries hard to fit in at school, trying to keep others from learning just how horrible things truly are at home. Maya is an incredibly likeable character, strong and vulnerable at times, always trying to keep things running smoothly. She is the stable one in the book.

The 17 year-old main male character of the book. I personally found Lochan more interesting than Maya. Lochan has an incredibly bad case of social anxiety disorder, unable to stop gnawing on his lip when confronted with social situations and unable to interact with his classmates or anyone outside of his family without stammering or turning crimson. I did think it was a little overdone at times, but then again, he could just have an incredibly bad case of it. I will say the author captured his feelings of anxiety beautifully, portraying them in a heartbreakingly realistic sense. Throughout the book you get the sense something is building inside of Lochan, possibly something violent, through small incidents here and there, but thankfully we are not subjected to seeing his beautiful character get shredded by watching it come to fruition. He is also strikingly brilliant, something that disgusts his mother who says he inherited it from his father.

The mother
I expected the mother to be the typical alcoholic-abusive mother, but instead she was a fairly happy drunk, when she was around. Oh, she had her moments of throwing tantrums and spitting out her cruel, hateful words, but overall, she was a happy-go-lucky alcoholic woman without a care in the world who wanted to reclaim the freedom she had lost when she gave her youth away to raising children she had never wanted. And in a way, you can't help feeling sorry for her.

The siblings
I loved them. All of them. Even bad-attitude 13 year-old Kit, when he stopped mouthing off and being a jerk. The youngest sister, 5 year-old Willa, was absolutely a doll, and I would be so happy if I had a daughter like her. The author absolutely managed to capture all of the children in realistic ways, so much so that I felt like I knew them personally--like they were each unique individuals I could pass on the street and meet.

The Writing
Magnificent. That is the best summation of the writing I can give you. It was truly magnificent. The author's command of the written word was just... I could cry with jealousy and awe. The way she was able to capture so much, finding the perfect words for every scene, and being able to make you literally feel like you were right there, in the moment, watching it unfold before you, was just astounding. There were parts of the book where my interest waned, but I continued reading simply because I was so in love with her writing.

The Story (Spoilers!)
Earlier I told you to forget they were brother and sister. Now I'm going to tell you why. To me, and this is strictly my own personal opinion, and I have done no research on this novel or the author or anything else, the book read like a wonderful, poignant novel about a family doing whatever it takes to get by.

Now--would if that were the tagline, would you have read this book? Would you have been intrigued by it?

No? Well... What if we had the brother and sister fall in love? With each other? Would more people be interested then?

Get where I'm going with this?

The book was insanely beautiful on its own. It didn't need the incest. I'm not saying that because I'm anti-incest. (No, I'm not getting freaky with any of my relatives and I never have--I just figure it's none of my business what people do.) I'm saying that because the story was just that strong enough on its own. The incest portion of it was more like, "Brother and sister are acting like parents/husband-and-wife for 1/4 the book... Suddenly brother and sister think the other is attractive... Brother and sister 'realize' their closeness and friendship goes beyond familial love so now they're in love and getting freaky." If the whole brother-and-sister relationship had been taken out of the book, and it had just dealt with the issues at hand: kids forced into parenthood before their time, afraid of breaking apart their family, social anxiety up the wazoo, trying to fit in, I think the book would still have been just as poignant. Because Maya and Lochan's relationship didn't make or break the book for me. It wasn't, for me, what the book was supposed to be about.

You want a book about incest? About a brother and sister falling madly, passionately in love even though they know it's wrong and not wanting to stop even though they want to stop? V.C. Andrews. She did it first; she did it best. And she wasn't ashamed of it. It was the whole point of her books. Point A: Brother and Sister. Point Z: Lovers. Not Forbidden.

Do I hope you check this book out? I do. It is well worth the read. Forget about the taboo nature of the material--it's not what's important. It's the story she's telling about survival, and mostly, doing whatever it takes to keep your family together.