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Book Cover Image: Forbidden by Tabitha SuzumaTitle: Forbidden

Author: Tabitha Suzuma

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“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.”

Thoughts: Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden challenges the reader to put aside all negative connotations regarding one of the most taboo relationships in society. It forces the reader to reevaluate the idea of love and the pressures society puts on its members to conform to acceptable relationships. She does not condone or vilify Lochan and Maya’s relationship but rather presents the turmoil each faces as they struggle to reconcile their feelings within a greater context. It is a story like no other.

One cannot condemn Lochan and Maya because they are very much victims of their circumstances. Forced to grow up unbelievably early because of a father who abandons them and a mother who does not want to be one, they step into the roles vacated by their parents. Parenting is an intimate relationship because it requires a level of trust and partnership, a give-and-take that is important to other types of relationships but imperative for successful parenting. In their fight to keep their family together, the forced intimacy of their parenting roles blur the lines between sibling/friend/parent. The horror a reader feels at their burgeoning relationship is offset by admiration for the commitment to their siblings and to each other. In a situation where it would all too easy to give up something, whether it is school or the burden of parenting, Maya and Lochan refuse to succumb to the pressures. If only everyone were as committed to their family.

Forbidden is not for everyone. The subject matter is generally accepted as unthinkable, and the setting of the novel is dismal and bleak. It is the type of novel where the reader knows from the first page that there will be no happy ending. For the reader that perseveres, he or she is rewarded with a spellbinding story of two siblings caught up in a no-win situation and yet who continue to fight to keep their family together in spite of the odds. It is a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster, as the circumstances in which Maya and Lochan find themselves is through no fault of their own but rather the hand that life dealt them. The reader cheers for them, hoping they will succeed, all the while knowing that it is a futile effort on their part. In spite of all the heartbreak, there is a feeling of hope, and it is this glimmer keeps the reader engaged through the very end. Forbidden‘s power and draw lies in this possibility of overcoming the odds, in the strength of Maya and Lochan’s commitment to each other and to their family. For readers who attempt this difficult and challenging novel, they will be rewarded with a touching story of survival and love and the depths to which a person will go to achieve both.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster‘s Galley Grab for me e-galley!

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