Author: Tabitha Suzuma
By Tristan Sherlock
Despite what the blurb suggests, this is not an angsty novel about forbidden love or incest – this is a book about the danger and the repercussions of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Forbidden just so happens to use incest as a way to hone its message. And as weird as it may be – it works.
Forbidden is a wild ride from start to finish. It is, for lack of a better word, fucked. Sure, it has its witty, funny and brighter moments, but those are plagued with a sense of dysfunctionality. Every sentence, description, every piece of dialogue that you read will have you thinking: shit.
When writing such a character driven novel, having well written characters is essential. For the most part the author, Tabitha Suzuma, did exceptionally well. Lochlan is one of the most interesting characters in Forbidden (bonus points because he’s also the main character). When reading from his perspective you feel his emotions. You feel his anxiety and his depression. Maya is outgoing and extraverted – she’s the character that balances out Lochlan. She’s interesting but compared to Lochlan she’s quite bland.
Kit is another exceptionally interesting character; he’s the annoying, angry, bratty child. I was kind of expecting Kit to be tossed aside at the end of the novel, after a short and unrealistic resolution, but he wasn’t, instead he was important to the story till the very end, and the key contributor to Forbidden’s climax.
Tiffin and Willa are where Suzuma’s ‘well written characters’ flop. Tiffin has no constant characterisation at all, and all Willa is just nice. They’re not memorable in the slightest and only important when reinforcing Lochlan’s and Maya’s parental roles.
The plot wasn’t anything different or even new. One parent left, and the other was an alcoholic who was more interested in living her own life rather than caring for her children. The oldest two children were then forced to raise their siblings by themselves.
When it comes to Lochlan and Maya’s incestuous relationship Forbidden tackles it quite interestingly. On one hand, Forbidden attempts to make you question the taboo subject but at the same time it doesn’t romanticise it at all. Forbidden wants you to realise how messed up the situation is, as well as make you sympathise with it. You’re never not reminded that Lochlan and Maya are brother and sister, but you are also made aware that they never had the luxury of seeing each other in that way. You’re not going to put the novel down saying ‘incest is alright’ but you most certainly are going to question it.
As with everything Forbidden does have its weak spots. There are a lot of parts that are slow and could be sped up or taken out all together. The descriptions are way too long, haunting yes but still too long; we don’t need a two-page description on dead flies.
To tackle such a controversial issue Tabitha Suzuma must have guts.
It paid off.