Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Most Forbidden Love

When you think "forbidden love", I am sure you think of Romeo and Juliet. A love forbidden by others, but beautiful in reality. I have been a witness of beautiful love with large age differences, including an aunt who married a man 20+ years her senior. Looking back at those pictures, despite their age difference, my aunt and uncle were never happier than when they were together. We have seen love forbidden by religious lines, ethnic boundaries, and racial separation. So is there a love that is truly forbidden? The love Tabitha Suzuma writes about in Forbidden is not only "forbidden", it is downright taboo... so why do you feel your heart wrench for these two young adults who seem so in love?

Lochan, called Lochie by his family, is painfully shy and quiet. A brilliant young man, he is stunted in school by his almost physical inability to speak to anyone other than his own family. Maya is his younger sister. Separated by only a year, they are completely different people. Maya is more social, has friends, and even a possible interest in boys. But together, Lochie and Maya are thrust into the most difficult of childhoods you could imagine- they basically have to raise their younger siblings with little to no help from their parents. Their father left them years ago for his new family and their mother is more concerned with getting her party on and keeping her new boyfriend happy. She comes around less and less, including ignoring all the responsibilities that come with having five children. 

So Lochie and Maya must, in order to keep their family together and out of the foster system, become the parents of their younger brothers and sister. Willa and Tiffin are young enough to accept this arrangement, but Kit is old enough and angry enough to fight what little authority Maya and Lochie have over him. Life as high school students and the virtual parents of three is not only taxing on Maya and Lochie physically, it creates an emotional bond that is much, much different than how a brother and sister are supposed to see each other. Alone in their roles as parents, they find themselves drawn to each other even though they know it is wrong. They emotions for one another have never exactly been "sibling-like", but now they start to see each other in a way they know is wrong- the way a husband and a wife would see each other. Their love and desire grows with each passing day, but they know the risks of giving into their desires. They know their love is not only socially unacceptable, they know it is illegal and if they are caught, they will lose their family. And there is nothing more important to them than keeping Kit, Willa, and Tiffin together. But their desperate situation brings them closer and closer. So close, in fact, that there is no going back. Their love may be the ultimate societal taboo, a brother and sister loving each other in a way that should never happen, but to Maya and Lochie, it couldn't be more pure or devoted. Is it their fault they had the horrible luck to be born to the same neglectful mother? You can't help who you fall in love with, right?

Oh boy. I don't know how to really write this review. I actually finished this book 2 days ago, but had to step away from it and think about it before sitting down to write about it. I will admit, at first I had absolutely no interest in reading a love story about a brother and sister. I did read Flowers in the Attic like most junior high kids did in my time, but even though we knew that situation was wrong, and we found ourselves blaming it on the situation- kids locked in the attic with nothing else to do for years. But this relationship didn't have that sense of hopelessness. They went to school, had friends, and while they were trapped by their horrible circumstances, it still seemed unnecessary. But my cousin, who always gives me great book advice, suggested I had to read this book. I trust her judgment, so despite my "ick-factor" presumptions about this book, I bought it...

Now I don't know how to explain it. Actually, I wish I could convince someone else to read it because I REALLY need to talk to someone about it. Incest is nothing romantic or beautiful like other romantic tragedies we find ourselves loving, but this isn't the dirty incest you usually imagine. In fact, at one point, Lochie even researches incest by two consenting adults, and there really is none. Their situation is so rare and unheard of, they can't find any traces of other people suffering the same forbidden love. In fact, Lochie even explains to Maya that it would be considered a love of the abuse and neglect they have suffered at the hands of their parents. They know how bad their situation is, but that doesn't mean they can stop loving one another they way they do. You can't simply shut off the feelings Maya and Lochie are experiencing. In fact, you find yourself WISHING they weren't related because their love really does seem pure and unadulterated.

Then you find yourself questioning the very horror of that wish! How could you, a reader, think this love is ok? Well, you don't. Not exactly. But god, you sure are confused by everything about these two kids. This was how I felt as I finished this tragic, sad, heartbreaking story. I was so confused. I loved Maya and Lochie, and I just wanted to save them or desperately find out they really weren't related. I wanted it to be all a mistake- maybe they were switched at birth or something and Lochie really isn't her brother. Well, that wasn't the case, so I found myself even more confused. 

This book is taboo. It is hard to read, emotionally, but beautifully written. The author really crossed a boundary with her topic, but she did so in a way that will leave you both breathless and terrified at the same time. But at the same time, you have to read it. This isn't the same cheesy graphic shock-value V.C. Andrews piled into Flowers in the Attic. It is something different entirely. but at the same time, I can't think of a single student I would give this book to. Not because it is poorly written or I think it will influence our students in any way (because that is just ludicrous, to be very honest), but because the subject matter seems so black and white at the beginning and leaves you as confused as you could ever be at the end. I think it might be too heavy for a teenager who, like an teenager, has trouble defining themselves, let alone the very fabric of societal, ethical, and moral boundaries. This book will have you question everything you know to be right or wrong, and it does so in one seriously ground-shaking way. I commend Suzuma for having the guts to write about the most truly forbidden love, and to do so with such grace and beauty. If that isn't the work of a literary magician, I am not sure what is. 

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