Reviewed by Elizabeth Talbott

Lochan and Maya are siblings that have been forced to become the heads of their household following their parents’ divorce. Their mother’s neverending quest to reclaim her youth through irresponsible and immature behavior does not help the matters either. They act as parents to their younger siblings, feeding them, caring for them, and even forcing their mother to give them money for necessities. Their biggest nightmare is child protective services coming in and splitting up their family, so they work hard to make everything appear normal, despite their lives spinning out of control.

As a result of their situation, Lochan and Maya become extremely close and the friendship they had as children slowly evolves into a forbidden romantic love. Lochan and Maya grapple with their feelings and must decide if their relationship is worth risking everything they’ve worked for.

I have to be frank: Forbidden is about incest. I was initially pretty shocked that an author of young adult fiction would be brave enough to write a book like this. I assumed that people would hate it and be shocked and disgusted, but the general consensus seems to be quite the opposite.

I would characterize Forbidden as a more coherent, better written version of Flowers in the Attic (see our review). That was my first encounter with incestuous relationships in literature and I was surprised that throughout that series, I really wanted Cathy and Christopher to be together. There are many similarities between the two works (abusive mother, parenting siblings, worrying over separating their family), but Tabitha Suzuma infuses her story with much more realistic situations and emotions. My heart broke for Lochan, Maya, and their siblings. Nobody should have to suffer as they did, struggling to get the basics of life while their mother squandered their money on clothes, drinks, and presents for herself. The bright light for Maya and Lochan, as well as the readers, is their budding romance.

Incest is taboo in most societies and most of us wouldn’t hesitate to call it disgusting, but Suzuma made Maya and Lochan’s relationship organic and like any other romance. Of course, they were fraught with guilt and tried to push each other away in an effort to uphold the values of their society. The chapters were alternately narrated by Maya and Lochan, which gave insight to their inner thoughts and conflicts. This aspect was essential in making the subject matter believable and palatable.

Forbidden is a very fast read that grabbed my heartstrings and took me on an emotional and complex journey. I would recommend it to those not afraid to put aside their own feelings on the subject matter.

Rating: 5/5

Elizabeth is a student at Cal State Long Beach. She laughs a lot, loves cats, and lives for music and books. You can read her blog here: http://titania86-fishmuffins.blogspot.com/.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon Pulse. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.