ForbiddenBy Tabitha Suzuma

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 28, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Source: Publisher

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.

Goodreads Summary

Teenage siblings Lochan and Maya Whitely are desperately trying to take care of their younger brothers and sister and keep them all under the radar of the Government Services agency they fear will split them up and put them into separate foster homes.  Their boozy mother is more interested in her married boyfriend and his family than her own and can usually only be made to feel guilty enough to pay the bills and show up once in a while to con the youngest two children into thinking she still cares about them all.

The cracks in their family unit widen as middle brother Kit turns thirteen and starts openly rebelling against Lochan’s authority and youngest siblings Tiffin and Willa start becoming more observant about what they’re missing and what’s wrong in the house.  Lochan’s social anxiety and depression worsen daily and when he thinks he sees Maya, the one person who’s always brought him peace, slipping away, he’s paralyzed.  She pulls him back from a nearly literal psychological cliff by reminding him of how close they’ve always been, more friends than brother and sister and wrangling time away from the other kids for them to relax and for him to sleep.  Then, and during some other stolen moments soon after, they both start to realize that they’ve always had each other and wonder if it’s wrong to want happiness with the person they love more than anyone else.

I was in knots with this book from the start.  I didn’t know if I wanted to pick it up and even after reading a glowing review I didn’t know if I wanted it.  Once I downloaded it and started, there were many times when I told myself for my own good I needed to put it down because I was getting too upset and when I finished, I barely slept that night and even days later I was still feeling unsettled by it.

While the obvious hot button in the story is incest, it wasn’t really the trigger in the story for me.  I never thought this was salacious or dirty – if I never see that V.C. Andrews book mentioned anywhere near this, I’ll be happy.  This is likely less explicit than most YA novels that have sexual content, but in the context of incest it may make some readers more uncomfortable.  I’ll put the extent of Maya and Lochan’s sexual relationship behind some white text for anyone who wants to know before they choose whether or not to read this:

Maya and Lochan start with above the waist touching and at that point both are conflicted and stop. It isn’t until Lochan has a breakdown that Maya sleeps with him for comfort and then there is more topless touching, eventual full nudity and one final act of hurried intercourse that’s not erotic and it ends in an a horrifying event.

What made this book heartbreaking and in some way the idea of the incest storyline with Maya less of a central theme was Lochan’s horrible psychological state.  The story is told in alternating perspectives between Maya and Lochan so you can see his deterioration from both sides.  I never had the feeling that he was thinking how pitiful his life was, only that he felt he was failing everyone who’d ever counted on him.  He’d been the father figure in the house for so long but at least his mother had generally been physically in the house (there were even very creepy indications that his own mother thought it was fine to flaunt her sexuality with him).  Now she’s all but gone and living with her boyfriend, he’s old enough that his teachers were pressuring him about college and classes, Kit’s acting out and Maya’s thinking about dating.  He can barely even physically function and mentally he’s somewhere between a fetal position and an incandescent rage most of the time.

It was horrible being in his head reading his despair and then switching to Maya’s and reading her watching him crumble.  This really is why I didn’t agree much with the part of the synopsis that said this was about two people falling in love – Lochan and Maya already loved each other deeply, it’s just that in their need to rescue each other they fixated on something they could have for themselves that gave them peace and hope for escape.  Simple love, obsession, fear and hope were all tangled together.

My Summary: Even knowing a story like this couldn’t have any sort of fairytale ending I was absolutely devastated by what happened.  I’ve cried happy tears at a book’s end and I’ve cried some sad tears mid-book when a character I love does something awful to another character I love on the way to their happy ending.  This just wrecked me for the day and for days afterwards.  I was joking with someone that when I don’t like the end of a book I just rewrite it in my head – I hated the end of this book, yet it’s seared in my head and I can’t rewrite it.  This book isn’t for everyone but if you can see past the subject matter this is an amazingly powerful story.

My Rating: A




  1. So I'm not going to read the book, but now I want to know the ending! If you have time, can you email me and tell me how it ends?

  2. Crazy spoiler-lover (I'd want to know the same thing). You've got mail. 🙂

  3. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this book! I think everyone should read it immediately… but obviously due to subject matter a lot of people won;t and will completely miss out on one of the best reads ever!

  4. You know, it was YOUR review that made me go back and get this. I saw it come up in the feed – I think I commented in the original thread before Blogger at it. I doubt I would have bothered to even look at any of the other reviews because I'd just seen the synopsis and decided not to go there already. You hooked me. 🙂

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