Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Backlog review. Originally read/reviewed December 2011.

Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Published: May 2010 (Definitions)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But... they are brother and sister.

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.

My Review: Holy cow. This book. This book. It was one of the most powerful, intense stories I've read in a long time. I finished it twenty minutes ago, and I still have swollen eyes and a throbbing head from crying. I am going to try my best to explain this book, though it is going to be challenging.

I did not go into this book expecting sunshine and rainbows, obviously. You can tell from the cover and the summary that it's not going to be a happy story. And it wasn't. This book was far from an "easy" read. Everything about it was difficult. Maya and Lochan were basically raising their three little siblings on their own, despite still being in school themselves. The way the tedium and stress weighed them down and how the whole situation was dealt with is just heartwrenchingly realistic. The story is told in alternating POV - one chapter is from Maya's perspective, the next from Lochan's, etc. Lochan's chapters were particularly difficult to read because of all the issues he had. Then you have the nature of their relationship itself. I did not find this  quite as repelling as many others might - just as a warning, if you couldn't tell from the summary, it is blatant incest - because I'm just weird that way, I guess. But the codependence, the seriously twisted factors behind the relationship, the intensity between the two, everything was nearly overwhelming. Thinking back, I cannot believe I read it in one sitting; it seems like the kind of thing that would need to be spaced out if only to give yourself some time to breathe in between. Yet I could not put the book down (well, metaphorically, since I was reading it on ebook).

Suzuma's work is absolutely stunning. First of all, she did a marvelous job with the storyline. She presented the relationship and characters in a nearly hauntingly realistic way. She addressed the issues behind the taboo and illegality of the practice of incestuous relationships. One of the things I found most impressive of all was simply the writing itself. A lot of times with alternating POVs, I've found that while the voice changes, the writing does not tend to. Yet with her, you could feel whose head you were in. In the voice, the word choice, the length of the sentences and paragraphs. The way she crafted the evolving relationship was perfect, from the acutal happenings to the reactions and realizations of both Maya and Lochan. The scenes when things are first coming to a head between them gave me goosebumps, even made me tear up because I was so conflicted, right along with them. The writing was consistently good, but every once in a while, there would just a line that was so powerful. For instance, this one:
I mean, at the end of the day, what the hell does it matter who I end up with if it can’t be you?
 Seems like just a line from any romance book; in fact, I had seen it before I even read the book because it was on someone's favorite quotes on Goodreads. But inside the book? It was like being punched in the stomach. A result that surprisingly happened at least a couple times in this book, as a result of lines or happenings.

My one complaint was the utter predictability of the "event" that happened to lead to the climax. You could have seen it a mile off with a blindfold over your eyes. But still. Even with that, I did not feel that it weakened the impact of the book. In fact, I almost feel like it was so predictable that Suzuma made it that way purposefully. So we could see just how oblivious they were because of the all-consuming nature of their devotion and relationship. Also, the writing lagged a bit at times, albeit only on occasion and not terribly.

This is not a book I will be rereading over and over; in fact, I would be surprised if I ever picked it up again. But if you are prepared, I would definitely recommend it. It truly was a stunning work.

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