Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

That awkward feeling when your boyfriend asks what you’re reading and you mumble that you’re reading a book for pre-teens about incest.

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.

I can’t help but think that perhaps so many people have raved about this book simply because of the shocking subject matter. So many plots have been repeated until we know them by heart, so that when an author comes along with something just that little bit different (the more so, the better) she is pretty much guaranteed to get rave reviews, regardless of the actual quality of the book.

I’m not sure why, but I don’t seem to be as repulsed by the concept of consensual incest as most people seem to be. It’s not something I’d want to partake in, but I don’t really feel like locking up everybody who does. In fact, I don’t actually understand why it is against the law – preventing siblings from having children is one thing, but I don’t get prohibiting their relationships. Maybe this had something to do with my lack of regard for the book, I’m not sure.

Anyway, my own views on incest aren’t really at issue here. The point is, I just wasn’t a fan. To me, the book was separated into two parts – the first three quarters of the book and then the final one. I had such differing opinions on the two that they may as well have been completely different books.

First off, I disliked Maya and loathed Lochan. I understand that they have a hard life looking after their three siblings, but well… they’re so sulky. Again, they probably have a right to do so, I get it, but they don’t really try and help themselves. They never once sit their mother down to try and reason with her or try and communicate properly with Kit. Lochan infuriated me – for no apparent reason at all, he refuses to speak in front of anybody non-family. It never really explains why, but it barely seems like he even tries. I honestly just wanted to shake him and tell him to get a grip.

I never really believed in their relationship either; it doesn’t really show us why they’re so different from every other brother-sister duo out there. I understand they were pushed into the role of parents and so thought of each other that way, but it doesn’t really show that. You’re kind of just supposed to accept that that is The Way It Is. Aside from anything else, they’re teenagers. Incest aside, teenage love just isn’t… well, it just isn’t. Teenage relationships can stand the test of time, but most teenagers aren’t as melodramatic as Lochan and Maya are.

That’s the perfect word for Forbidden – melodramatic. Everything is exaggerated beyond the bounds of believability and there’s a gloomy cloud of despair over the whole thing, even the supposedly happy parts. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s terribly written – so clunky and strangely awkward. It doesn’t flow at at all. I’ve read a lot of reviews praising Ms. Suzuma for the beauty of it all, but the awful prose just made me cringe.

All that said… I do respect the ending. It’s not something I saw coming, although the synopsis on the blurb already warned me of an unhappy ending (which was a bit strange in itself). But yeah, I liked the difficult decisions Maya and Lochan were forced to make – although after one particular event, I was all ‘What? Really?’ with an exasperated sigh. Over-dramatic again. As a whole though – it was a quite clever ending.

As for the very, very end – Maya’s selfishness annoyed me. I could quite easily have stabbed her because God, that was ridiculous and entirely pointless. I know I’m kind of speaking in code here, but if you understand what I’m talking about, e-mail me and I’ll happily discuss it 🙂

I think I didn’t like this book because there was so much I didn’t understand. Why did Lochan and Maya’s relationship develop how it did? Why were their siblings so horrible? Why couldn’t Lochan talk? If various points had been developed a little more and it had been written a little better, it could have been amazing. I’m 22 – I don’t need sock puppets to comprehend the basic plot of a YA novel, but a little too much relies on the reader’s willingness to ‘accept’ in Forbidden. 

Visit Tabitha Suzuma’s website here, or find her on Twitter.


  1. Kelly says:

    It's so refreshing to hear the other side! I've only read glowing reviews about this book, so thank you for providing me with a different perspective. Though, since you remained spoiler free, I'm now curious as to what happened at the end!

  2. Hannah says:

    I just.. couldn't. I was vaguely intrigued for a while until I remembered how sick the idea of incest made me. And then I remembered I don't like YA contemporary.
    Also, you're 22? I always assumed you were older than me. 🙂

    1. Hanna says:

      Nope, 22 now – 23 in August 🙂

  3. I've never really been inclined to read this. Not because of the possible ick factor but because I couldn't see how incest could be done well in a YA book. Now that you mention melodrama, I think that was what I was imagining. It's one of those subject matters that should be tackled sensitively if it's going to work and this clearly isn't that. Hmm…

    1. Hanna says:

      I don't really know why I picked it up, because it was almost a guarantee that I wasn't going to like it. It's just so overdramatic! Teenagers deciding that they're in love forever and ever without adding incest to the mix.

      The ending is good though, in a depressing kind of way…

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