(Also posted on Goodreads here) 5/5 stars
This review contains some spoilers
I am fortunate enough to have a signed copy of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma as a result of winning an Authors for Japan auction bid. I chose to bid for a set of Tabitha’s books to discover a new YA author. I was also impressed that in her books she was tackling challenging issues including mental health.
Forbidden is her most recent book but the first I have read. The warning ‘Not suitable for younger readers’ indicates that this is not your typical YA book. In fact it is not a typical book at all, dealing with the most forbidden of loves, that of consensual love between a brother and a sister.
The story is narrated in alternating chapters by 16 year old Maya and her 17 year old brother Lochan. Their mother is mostly absent, loving both the bottle and her new boyfriend Dave more than her 5 children. Consequently the two older siblings are left to look after wayward teen Kit and youngsters Tiffin and Willa. They cover for their mother with their teachers for fear of social services stepping in and splitting the family up.
Maya and Lochan both have distinct voices and their first person, present tense accounts carry the reader with them as they discover their love for each other. We can see it before them, can understand it (they are having to act as mother/father figures), can feel their fear at being found out but sense their unhappiness when they try not to act on this love.
They both seem to be stronger with each other, shy Lochan finally confronts his fear of speaking out in class, his relationship with his sister boosts his confidence. Maya grows more mature, realising when their secret relationship means she is neglecting her duty to Willa as her big sister and rectifying this. In fact even Lochan’s relationship with Kit is resolved and they all to be one big happy family.
This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are some sexually explicit scenes which, in my opinion, are well handled.
At the end of the book the pair, believing they have the house to themselves finally consummate their love, but they have not been as secret or as careful as they’d thought.
As a reader we know that this forbidden love can’t be realised with a happily ever after but although I’d been warned by other reviews I certainly didn’t expect my heart to break as much as theirs. Kit’s reaction started the tears rolling. Believe me the ending could have been much worse, the point when I thought it was going to be had me sobbing and I had to put the book down before I could read the last few pages.
My dedication from Tabitha says Happy Reading! I can’t call it that but I can call it memorable and brave, with enchanting prose. I look forward to reading her other four books.
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