Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma. Published by Simon Pulse in May, 2011. Read in July, 2011. Copy purchased for my personal library.
I tried to write my own description of Forbidden, but I’ve given up and am going with the GoodReads description:
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.
Sibling incest always makes me think of Flowers in the Attic, and I don’t think I can be blamed for that. But the comparison between the two books stops there. Forbidden is gripping and really well written. The situation Lochan and Maya are in will make you angry: dad is long gone in another country, and mom is more concerned about maintaining her buzz and trying to make her boyfriend see her as young and fun, not a mother of five. She is never home unless she’s recovering from a hangover. Lochan and Maya know that if they don’t parent their siblings, they will be split up and sent to foster care. So the two oldest make sure to keep everyone fed, dressed, and in school daily in order to fly under the radar. They keep this a secret from everyone outside of the family, so they can only trust and confide in each other.
Lochan is riddled with crippling anxiety. It is painful to watch him try to hide it, especially when you realize how smart the guy is, yet he bottles that brilliance up. This young man is so obviously damaged long before the taboo relationship starts, and as someone who works with teens, it breaks my heart to know that there are real kids out there this damaged who don’t get noticed because they stay quiet.
Maya is more of a normal teen girl, but she is fiercely loyal to Lochan. Their middle brother, Kit, is a rebellious, angry adolescent, and neither of them can control him. Maya is able to calm him down sometimes, but Kit and Lochan are an explosion waiting to happen. The other two children, Tiffan and Willa, are young children; a handful but just wanting to be loved.
The pressure of juggling all of this, and trying to get money out of their mom in order to survive is too much for teens this age to bear, and Lochan and Maya have no one to turn to but each other. As their relationship becomes physical, I read it with mixed emotions. What happens between the two is so wrong, but I also wish I could see Lochan and Maya survive this mess and be happy. As things progress in the book, I became more sad because I knew this could not end well.
Forbidden looks like a long book but is such a fast read. By the end, I was so involved in the lives of Lochan and Maya, I didn’t want it to end and cried through the last couple chapters. It hurt. A lot. I felt a bit dazed after I was done, emotionally wrung out. It can grow a bit melodramatic at times; I think a reader’s tolerance for the drama will heavily affect their response to the book.
Forbidden is graphic when it comes to descriptions of the physical relationship. I know there are readers in my school who would devour this book, but I have a lot of reservations about putting it in my school library. I will pass it on as a public library recommendation to the teens I know can handle it.