For brother and sister Lochlan and Maya, life is pretty complicated. Even though they’re seventeen and sixteen, respectively, they feel quite a bit older. Caring for their three younger siblings while their absent, alcoholic mother gallivants around town with men hasn’t been easy. Because they’ve grown up so quickly, Lochlan and Maya don’t really view each other as sibling so much as friends. Best friends. Soul mates. Although they try to resist it at first, the two realize that they’re in love with one another, despite the fact that it’s taboo and totally illegal. A love story like theirs isn’t exactly all sunshine and daisies, though, and their actions could have serious repercussions.
Oh, the melodrama.
Seriously, you guys. Unlike a lot of the reviewers on Goodreads, it isn’t the taboo topic of incest that I find so unappealing about Suzuma’s book. I’ve always found the subject of incest fascinating (I read a lot of V.C. Andrews when I was young), and I have no issues with consensual sex. I’m not going to sit around and judge fictional characters for their actions. So no, the incest wasn’t what I struggled with.
What I did struggle with was the incredibly grating, unsympathetic characters we were supposed to feel for. I struggled with Lochlan’s ridiculously manipulative behavior and out-0f-control jealousy. I struggled with the pretentiousness of the characters (and with the pretentiousness of the book as a whole), but most of all, I struggled with the unbelievable weight of the melodrama that surrounds the characters. This isn’t typical teen angst so much as soap-opera-levels of melodrama. It was too much.
Lochlan is the most problematic character, but he isn’t the only one to blame. His propensity to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation is annoying at first and absolutely infuriating by the end. He’s got a superiority complex about himself that makes being in his head for half the book pretty painful. This complex is illustrated with overwrought prose and his tendency to act like a tempest in a teapot. When he cries while interrogating Maya after she comes home from a date? That’s not being sensitive, guys. That’s called being a manipulative douche truck.
Maya starts off as a slightly more sympathetic character. She is slightly younger and very naive. Because she actually has friends and talks to people outside of her family, her portions of narration aren’t quite as overwrought with melodramatic feelings. Most of her feelings ring true to the throes of first love. However, her propensity to put Lochlan up on a pedestal irritated me.
The truth of the matter is that Lochlan is a disturbing personality, and his violent outbursts (he physically harms two of his siblings) and neglectful tendencies make him completely unsympathetic and kind of repulsive. The last part of the book spends a lot of time hemming and hawing over why their love is real and should be accepted, but by that point, they’d lost me, and it felt superficial, anyways. They’re selfish characters and the pretension that any of their actions are for the good of anyone except themselves is totally ridiculous.
Of course, the book isn’t completely terrible. Suzuma manages to pace it very well, despite there being long gaps between action (this could relate to both the sexy-kind and the normal-kind). She manages to create an incredibly well-drawn world within the characters’ home. The sex scenes are quite graphic for a YA novel, and it’s my guess that these are the scenes that will be poured over by younger readers and their friends (just as I tended to focus on the sexy bits in V.C. Andrews and Judy Blume books when I was young). Even so, the novel as a whole doesn’t hold up with such irritating characters.
Forbidden will hit bookshelves TODAY.
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Simon Pulse, 2011. Electronic galley accepted for review from the publisher.