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Overview

A shocking, heartbreaking story of taboo romance that’s as compelling as it is controversial.

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 de facto 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 ...

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Overview

A shocking, heartbreaking story of taboo romance that’s as compelling as it is controversial.

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 de facto 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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"How to explain that this situation, the love we feel for one another—everything that to others may seem sick and twisted and disgusting—to us feels completely natural and wonderful and oh—so, so right?" Seventeen-year-old Lochan and his sister, Maya, were born 13 months apart and share a close bond, playing the role of parents more than siblings. Their father left to start a new family and their alcoholic mother is almost never around. Despite the pressures of running a household (including her insufferable 13-year-old brother, Kit, and two younger siblings), Maya maintains a relatively normal social life, while Lochan has crippling social anxieties. Only able to depend on each other, Lochan and Maya fall in love and are forced to hide their feelings, causing abundant emotional anguish. British author Suzuma, in her U.S. debut, does an admirable job of making the siblings' romance feel believable—both are repulsed, conflicted, and electrified as their relationship deepens—but as the book alternates between Lochan and Maya's perspectives, it bogs down in florid language and exhaustive, melodramatic contemplation of their dilemma. Ages 14–up. (June)
From the Publisher
"Ms. Suzuma’s ability to dig so deeply into the various layers of human need and desire across several strata—physical, emotional, situational—renders a cringe-worthy premise another human experience to evaluate. The poignant and shocking ending will leave the reader pondering this story long after the final page is turned." —New York Journal of Books

"The novel’s surprises continue to the very end, and the secondary characters are well developed, including the needy younger siblings, who are shown in all their anger, sweetness, and rebellion. Most of all, though, it’s Lochan’s and Maya’s alternating first-person, present-tense narratives, both tender and heartbreaking, that will stay with readers." — Booklist

"There is nothing about this novel that is easy, but readers who snag the book for the controversy will stick around for the polished writing and compelling character development." —BCCB

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Lochan and Maya are the de-facto parents for their three younger siblings—Kit, Tiffin and Willa. Their father disappeared years ago when Willa was a baby, while their mom is a chronic drunk who is either working at her dead-end job or at her boyfriend's house trying to forget she has a family. The plot line is familiar with the older siblings struggling to keep authorities unaware of the situation and maintain some semblance of normal family life. Lochan is a brilliant student, but crippled by a fear of speaking in front of others, threatening his otherwise unquestioned acceptance into university next year. Just a year and a half-younger, Maya has a best-friend, Francie, to whom she can tell almost everything. Rebellious teenager Kit has become increasingly resentful of Lochan's efforts to impose rules and run the household; he will ultimately be the wind that blows down this house of cards. Tiffin also demands a lot of attention with his constant hyperactivity, leaving well-behaved Willa to reap the dregs of time and energy from her pseudo-parents. The plot is moved forward in chapters alternately told from the viewpoints of Lochan and Maya, who love each other in expected but also forbidden ways. Reading this book is like watching a train wreck happen in very slow motion—you're sure people will be hurt, but don't know how badly or where the bodies will fall. Explicit descriptions of sexual behavior and unjustified length suggest this should be recommended with caution. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Anita Beaman
Many young adult novels explore the dark loneliness children experience when surviving together in an abusive home. Some even explore the closeness between siblings dependent on each other for survival. But few, if any, explore the consequences when this closeness results in consensual incest. With their parents absent, Lochan and Maya hold their family together, but as Lochan approaches graduation and their younger brother spirals out of control, things begin to fall apart. Lochan and Maya have only each other to turn to, and their inability to have relationships outside their family forces them to seek emotional and physical love from each other. While Lochan and Maya's romance is gripping, readers will recognize the unhealthy psychology behind their forbidden need for each other. Suzuma presents the characters in a Romeo-and-Juliet light that entices readers to overlook the harm of their relationship, tempting us to root for them to be together before veering back to disgust at the idea of a brother and sister as lovers. This story cannot have a happy ending, and the tragic conclusion holds few surprises. What will be surprising to many readers is the emotional power of the book, the graphically described sex acts between siblings, and the lack of discussion of the incest taboo. While the story is riveting and breaks new ground in young adult literature, librarians need to be aware of the disturbing content and potential for objection to the book. Librarians are encouraged to read the book before placing it on the shelves. Reviewer: Anita Beaman
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—To call the Whitely family dysfunctional is a gross understatement. The father left, and the mother's time is consumed with work, her boyfriend, and drinking, so 16-year-old Maya and 17-year-old Lochan take charge of their three younger siblings. While maintaining good grades, the teens keep house, cook, clean, and care for the children while confiding in one another. In many ways they are mature beyond their years but in truth they are neglected children looking for love and stability. The story gently unfolds through the alternate voices of Maya and Lochan. What may begin as tender moments of caring between a brother and sister eventually turns to incest. They know society abhors incest and the two are in turn disgusted and ashamed, but then defensive and hopeful about their sexual relationship. It's a credit to the author that she is able to create genuine compassion for characters involved in this cultural taboo.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews

Perhaps inspired by V.C. Andrews' infamous Flowers in the Attic, British author Suzuma spins a tawdry tale of an illicit brother-and-sister relationship.

Lochan and Maya, the oldest of five siblings, narrate in alternating chapters. Their mother, an alcoholic, neglects the children, instead spending her time and money on clothing, drinking and dates with her boss. Caring for their younger siblings is chaotic and draining, a fact impressed upon readers both by heavy-handed exposition and by repetitive food disputes, bickering and belligerent outbursts from angry, defiant and reckless middle child Kit, by far the best-developed character. Over 100 pages pass before Lochan and Maya discover their feelings for each other. Though the author spares no cliché in evoking their tragically star-crossed love (Lochan even laments aloud, "How can something so wrong feel so right?"), she expertly manipulates tension, creating both pathos ("I can think of no other kind of love that is so totally rejected") and urgency ("Being with you every day but not being able to do anything...[i]t's like this cancer growing inside my body"), then delivering sizzling, multi-page frenzies of kissing, touching and more in the pair's rare moments of privacy.

Titillated teens will pass this guilty pleasure on to their friends, but they may advise skimming all but a few memorable scenes. (Fiction. 14-16)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442419964
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 75,361
  • Age range: 16 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Tabitha Suzuma is also the author of A Note of Madness, A Voice in the Distance, From Where I Stand, and Without Looking Back. She used to work as a primary school teacher and now divides her time between writing and tutoring. She lives in London. Visit her at TabithaSuzuma.com.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Lochan

I gaze at the small, crisp, burned-out black husks scattered across the chipped white paint of the windowsills. It is hard to believe that they were ever alive. I wonder what it would be like to be shut up in this airless glass box, slowly baked for two long months by the relentless sun, able to see the outdoors—the wind shaking the green trees right there in front of you—hurling yourself again and again at the invisible wall that seals you off from everything that is real and alive and necessary, until eventually you succumb: scorched, exhausted, overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. At what point does a fly give up trying to escape through a closed window—do its survival instincts keep it going until it is physically capable of no more, or does it eventually learn after one crash too many that there is no way out? At what point do you decide that enough is enough?

I turn my eyes away from the tiny carcasses and try to focus on the mass of quadratic equations on the board. A thin film of sweat coats my skin, trapping wisps of hair against my forehead, clinging to my school shirt. The sun has been pouring through the industrial-size windows all afternoon and I am foolishly sitting in full glare, half blinded by the powerful rays. The ridge of the plastic chair digs painfully into my back as I sit semi-reclined, one leg stretched out, heel propped up against the low radiator along the wall. My shirt cuffs hang loose around my wrists, stained with ink and grime. The empty page stares up at me, painfully white, as I work out equations in lethargic, barely legible handwriting. The pen slips and slides in my clammy fingers. I peel my tongue off my palate and try to swallow; I can’t. I have been sitting like this for the best part of an hour, but I know that trying to find a more comfortable position is useless. I linger over the sums, tilting the nib of my pen so that it catches on the paper and makes a faint scratching sound—if I finish too soon, I will have nothing to do but look at dead flies again. My head hurts. The air stands heavy, pregnant with the perspiration of thirty-two teenagers crammed into an overheated classroom. There is a weight on my chest that makes it difficult to breathe. It is far more than this arid room, this stale air. The weight descended on Tuesday, the moment I stepped through the school gates, back to face another school year. The week has not yet ended and already I feel as if I have been here for all eternity. Between these school walls, time flows like cement. Nothing has changed. The people are still the same: vacuous faces, contemptuous smiles. My eyes slide past theirs as I enter the classrooms and they gaze past me, through me. I am here but not here. The teachers tick me off in the register but no one sees me, for I have long perfected the art of being invisible.

There is a new English teacher—Miss Azley. Some bright young thing from Down Under: huge frizzy hair held back by a rainbow-colored head scarf, tanned skin, and massive gold hoops in her ears. She looks alarmingly out of place in a school full of tired middle-aged teachers, faces etched with lines of bitterness and disappointment. No doubt once, like this plump, chirpy Aussie, they entered the profession full of hope and vigor, determined to make a difference, to heed Gandhi and be the change they wanted to see in the world. Now, after decades of policies, intraschool red tape, and crowd control, most have given up and are awaiting early retirement, custard creams and tea in the staff room the highlight of their day. But the new teacher hasn’t had the benefit of time. In fact, she doesn’t look much older than some of the pupils in the room. A bunch of guys erupt into a cacophony of wolf whistles until she swings round to face them, disdainfully staring them down so that they start to look uncomfortable and glance away. Nonetheless, a stampede ensues when she commands everyone to arrange the desks in a semicircle, and with all the jostling, play fighting, desk slamming, and chair sliding, she is lucky nobody gets injured. Despite the mayhem, Miss Azley appears unperturbed—when everyone finally settles down, she gazes around the scraggly circle and beams.

“That’s better. Now I can see you all properly and you can all see me. I’ll expect you to have the classroom set up before I arrive in the future, and don’t forget that all the desks need to be returned to their places at the end of the lesson. Anyone caught leaving before having done his or her bit will take sole responsibility for the furniture arrangements for a week. Do I make myself clear?” Her voice is firm but there appears to be no malice. Her grin suggests she might even have a sense of humor. The grumbles and complaints from the usual troublemakers are surprisingly muted.

She then announces that we are going to take turns introducing ourselves. After expounding on her love of travel, her new dog, and her previous career in advertising, she turns to the girl on her right. Surreptitiously I slide my watch round to the inside of my wrist and train my eyes on the seconds flashing past. All day I have been waiting for this—final period—and now that it is here I can hardly bear it. All day I’ve been counting down the hours, the lessons, until this one. Now all that’s left is the minutes, yet they seem interminable. I am doing sums in my head, calculating the number of seconds before the last bell. With a start I realize that Rafi, the dickhead to my left, is blabbering on about astrology again—almost all the kids in the room have had their turn now. When Rafi finally shuts up about stellar constellations, there is sudden silence. I look up to find Miss Azley staring directly at me.

“Pass.” I examine my thumbnail and automatically mumble my usual response without looking up.

But to my horror, she doesn’t take the hint. Has she not read my file? She is still looking at me. “Few activities in my lessons are optional, I’m afraid,” she informs me.

There are sniggers from Jed’s group. “We’ll be here all day, then.”

“Didn’t anyone tell you? He don’t speak English—”

“Or any other language.” Laughter.

“Martian, maybe!”

The teacher silences them with a look. “I’m afraid that’s not how things work in my lessons.”

Another long silence follows. I fiddle with the corner of my notepad, the eyes of the class scorching my face. The steady tick of the wall clock is drowned out by the pounding of my heart.

“Why don’t you start off by telling me your name?” Her voice has softened slightly. It takes me a moment to figure out why. Then I realize that my left hand has stopped fiddling with the notepad and is now vibrating against the empty page. I hurriedly slide my hand beneath the desk, mumble my name, and glance meaningfully at my neighbor. He launches eagerly into his monologue without giving the teacher time to protest, but I can see she has backed down. She knows now. The pain in my chest fades to a dull ache and my burning cheeks cool. The rest of the hour is taken up with a lively debate about the merits of studying Shakespeare. Miss Azley does not invite me to participate again.

When the last bell finally shrieks its way through the building, the class dissolves into chaos. I slam my textbook shut, stuff it into my bag, get up, and exit the room rapidly, diving into the home-time fray. All along the main corridor overexcited pupils are streaming out of doors to join the thick current of people; I am bumped and buffeted by shoulders, elbows, bags, feet. . . . I make it down one staircase, then the next, and am almost across the main hall before I feel a hand on my arm.

“Whitely. A word.”

Freeland, my form tutor. I feel my lungs deflate.

The silver-haired teacher with the hollow, lined face leads me into an empty classroom, indicates a seat, then perches awkwardly on the corner of a wooden desk.

“Lochan, as I’m sure you are aware, this is a particularly important year for you.”

The A-level lecture again. I give a slight nod, forcing myself to meet my tutor’s gaze.

“It’s also the start of a new academic year!” Freeland announces brightly, as if I needed reminding of that fact. “New beginnings. A fresh start . . . Lochan, we know you don’t always find things easy, but we’re hoping for great things from you this term. You’ve always excelled in written work, and that’s wonderful, but now that you’re in your final year, we expect you to show us what you’re capable of in other areas.”

Another nod. An involuntary glance toward the door. I’m not sure I like where this conversation is heading. Mr. Freeland gives a heavy sigh. “Lochan, if you want to get into UCL, you know it’s vital you start taking a more active role in class. . . .”

I nod again.

“Do you understand what I’m saying here?”

I clear my throat. “Yes.”

“Class participation. Joining in group discussions. Contributing to the lessons. Actually replying when asked a question. Putting your hand up once in a while. That’s all we ask. Your grades have always been impeccable. No complaints there.”

Silence.

My head is hurting again. How much longer is this going to take?

“You seem distracted. Are you taking in what I’m saying?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Look, you have great potential and we would hate to see that go to waste. If you need help again, you know we can arrange that. . . .”

I feel the heat rise to my cheeks. “N-no. It’s okay. Really. Thanks anyway.” I pick up my bag, sling the strap over my head and across my chest, and head for the door.

“Lochan,” Mr. Freeland calls after me as I walk out. “Just think about it.”

At last. I am heading toward Bexham, school rapidly fading behind me. It is barely four o’clock and the sun is still beating down, the bright white light bouncing off the sides of cars, which reflect it in disjointed rays, the heat shimmering off the tarmac. The high street is all traffic, exhaust fumes, braying horns, schoolkids, and noise. I have been waiting for this moment since being jolted awake this morning, but now that it is finally here I feel strangely empty. Like being a child again, clattering down the stairs to find that Santa has forgotten to fill up our stockings; that Santa, in fact, is just the drunk on the couch in the front room, lying comatose with three of her friends. I have been focusing so hard on actually getting out of school that I seem to have forgotten what to do now that I’ve escaped. The elation I was expecting does not materialize and I feel lost, naked, as if I’d been anticipating something wonderful but suddenly forgot what it was. Walking down the street, weaving in and out of the crowds, I try to think of something—anything—to look forward to.

In an effort to shake myself out of my strange mood, I jog across the cracked paving stones past the litter-lined gutters, the balmy September breeze lifting the hair from the nape of my neck, my thin-soled sneakers moving soundlessly over the sidewalk. I loosen my tie, pulling the knot halfway down my chest, and undo my top shirt buttons. It’s always good to stretch my legs at the end of a long, dull day at Belmont, to dodge, skim, and leap over the smeared fruit and squashed veg left behind by the market stalls. I turn the corner onto the familiar narrow road with its two long rows of small, run-down brick houses stretching gradually uphill.

It’s the street I’ve lived on for the past five years. We only moved into the council house after our father took himself off to Australia with his new wife and the child support stopped. Before then, home had been a dilapidated rented house on the other side of town, but in one of the nicer areas. We were never well-off, not with a poet for a father, but nonetheless, things were easier in so many ways. But that was a long, long time ago. Home now is number sixty-two Bexham Road: a two-story, three-bedroom, gray stucco cube, thickly sandwiched in a long line of others, with Coke bottles and beer cans sprouting among the weeds between the broken gate and the faded orange door.

The road is so narrow that the cars, with their boarded-up windows or dented fenders, have to park with two wheels on the curb, making it easier to walk down the center of the street than on the sidewalk. Kicking a crushed plastic bottle out of the gutter, I dribble it along, the slap of my shoes and the grate of plastic against tarmac echoing around me, soon joined by the cacophony of a yapping dog, shouts from a children’s soccer game, and reggae blasting out of an open window. My bag bounces and rattles against my thigh and I feel some of my malaise begin to dissipate. As I jog past the soccer players, a familiar figure overshoots the goalpost markers and I exchange the plastic bottle for the ball, easily dodging the pint-size boys in their oversize Arsenal T-shirts as they follow me up the road, yelping in protest. The blond firework dives toward me, a towheaded little hippie with hair down to his shoulders, his once-white school shirt now streaked with dirt and hanging over torn gray trousers. He manages to get ahead of me, running backward as fast as he can, shouting frantically, “To me, Loch, to me, Loch. Pass it to me!”

With a laugh I do, and whooping in triumph, my eight-year-old brother grabs the ball and runs back to his mates, yelling, “I got it off him, I got it off him! Did you see?”

I slam into the relative cool of the house and sag back against the front door to catch my breath, brushing the damp hair off my forehead. Straightening up, I pick my way down the hallway, my feet automatically nudging aside the assortment of discarded blazers, book bags, and school shoes that litter the narrow corridor. In the kitchen I find Willa up on the counter, trying to reach a box of Frosted Cheerios in the cupboard. She freezes when she sees me, one hand on the box, her blue eyes wide with guilt beneath her fringe. “Maya forgot my snack today!”

I lunge toward her with a growl, grabbing her round the waist with one arm and swinging her upside down as she squeals with a mixture of terror and delight, her long golden hair fanning out beneath her. Then I dump her unceremoniously onto a kitchen chair and slap down the cereal box, milk bottle, bowl, and spoon.

“Half a bowlful, no more,” I warn her with a raised finger. “We’re having an early dinner tonight—I’ve got a ton of homework to do.”

“When?” Willa sounds unconvinced, scattering sugar-coated hoops across the chipped oak table that is the centerpiece of our messy kitchen. Despite the revised set of house rules that Maya taped to the fridge door, it is clear that Tiffin hasn’t touched the overflowing trash bins in days, that Kit hasn’t even begun washing the breakfast dishes piled up in the sink, and that Willa has once again mislaid her miniature broom and has only succeeded in adding to the crumbs littering the floor.

“Where’s Mum?” I ask.

“Getting ready.”

I empty my lungs with a sigh and leave the kitchen, taking the narrow wooden stairs two at a time, ignoring Mum’s greeting, searching for the only person I really feel like talking to. But when I spot the open door to her empty room, I remember that she is stuck at some after-school thing tonight and my chest deflates. Instead I return to the familiar sound of Magic FM blasting out of the open bathroom door.

My mother is leaning over the basin toward the smeared, cracked mirror, putting the finishing touches on her mascara and brushing invisible lint off the front of her tight silver dress. The air is thick with the stench of hair spray and perfume. As she sees me appear behind her reflection, her brightly painted lips lift and part in a smile of apparent delight. “Hey, beautiful boy!”

She turns down the radio, swings round to face me, and holds out an arm for a kiss. Without moving from the doorway, I kiss the air, an involuntary scowl etched between my brows.

She begins to laugh. “Look at you—back in your uniform and almost as scruffy as the kiddies! You need a haircut, sweetie. Oh dear, what’s with the stormy look?”

I sag against the door frame, trailing my blazer on the floor. “It’s the third time this week, Mum,” I protest wearily.

“I know, I know, but I couldn’t possibly miss this. Davey finally signed the contract for the new restaurant and wants to go out and celebrate!” She opens her mouth in an exclamation of delight and, when my expression fails to thaw, swiftly changes the subject. “How was your day, sweetie pie?”

I manage a wry smile. “Great, Mum. As usual.”

“Wonderful!” she exclaims, choosing to ignore the sarcasm in my voice. If there’s one thing my mother excels at, it’s minding her own business. “Only a year now—not even that—and you’ll be free of school and all that silliness.” Her smile broadens. “Soon you’ll finally turn eighteen and really will be the man of the house!”

I lean my head back against the doorjamb. The man of the house. She’s been calling me that since I was twelve, ever since Dad left.

Turning back to the mirror, she presses her breasts together beneath the top of her low-cut dress. “How do I look? I got paid today and treated myself to a shopping spree.” She flashes me a mischievous grin as if we were conspirators in this little extravagance. “Look at these gold sandals. Aren’t they darling?”

I am unable to return the smile. I wonder how much of her monthly wage has already been spent. Retail therapy has been an addiction for years now. Mum is desperate to cling on to her youth, a time when her beauty turned heads in the street, but her looks are rapidly fading, face prematurely aged by years of hard living.

“You look great,” I answer robotically.

Her smile fades a little. “Lochan, come on, don’t be like this. I need your help tonight. Dave is taking me somewhere really special—you know the place that’s just opened on Stratton Road opposite the movie theater?”

“Okay, okay. It’s fine—have fun.” With considerable effort I erase the frown and manage to keep the resentment out of my voice. There is nothing particularly wrong with Dave. Of the long string of men my mother has been involved with ever since Dad left her for one of his colleagues, Dave has been the most benign. Nine years her junior and the owner of the restaurant where she now works as head waitress, he is currently separated from his wife. But like each of Mum’s flings, he appears to possess the same strange power all men have over her, the ability to transform her into a giggling, flirting, fawning girl, desperate to spend her hard-earned cash on unnecessary presents for her “man” and tight-fitting, revealing outfits for herself. Tonight it is barely five o’clock and already her face is flushed with anticipation as she tarts herself up for this dinner, no doubt having spent the last hour fretting over what to wear. Pulling back her freshly highlighted blond perm, she is now experimenting with some exotic hairdo and asking me to fasten her fake diamond necklace—a present from Dave—that she swears is real. Her curvy figure barely fits into a dress her sixteen-year-old daughter wouldn’t be seen dead in, and the comment “mutton dressed as lamb,” regularly overheard from neighbors’ front gardens, echoes in my ears.

I close my bedroom door behind me and lean against it for a few moments, relishing this small patch of carpet that is my own. It never used to be a bedroom, just a small storage room with a bare window, but I managed to squeeze a camp bed in here three years ago when I realized that sharing a bunk bed with siblings had some serious drawbacks. It is one of the few places where I can be completely alone: no pupils with knowing eyes and mocking smirks; no teachers firing questions at me; no shouting, jostling bodies. And there is still a small oasis of time before our mother goes out on her date and dinner has to get under way and the arguments over food and homework and bedtime begin.

I drop my bag and blazer on the floor, kick off my shoes, and sit down on the bed with my back against the wall, knees drawn up in front of me. My usually tidy space bears all the frantic signs of a slept-through alarm: clock knocked to the floor, bed unmade, chair covered with discarded clothes, floor littered with books and papers, spilled from the piles on my desk. The flaking walls are bare, save for a small snapshot of the seven of us, taken during our final annual holiday in Blackpool two months before Dad left. Willa, still a baby, is on Mum’s lap, Tiffin’s face is smeared with chocolate ice cream, Kit is hanging upside down off the bench, and Maya is trying to yank him back up. The only faces clearly visible are Dad’s and mine—we have our arms slung across each other’s shoulders, grinning broadly at the camera. I rarely look at the photo, despite having rescued it from Mum’s bonfire. But I like the feel of it being close by: a reminder that those happier times were not simply a figment of my imagination.

© 2010 Tabitha Suzuma

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 162 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Twisted but so good!

    When I saw this book I laughed after reading the cover..I thought "they really have run out of this to write about". There is NOTHING like this in YA so it wins the award for origionality. I was worried it would be along the lines of "Flowers in the Attic" by Andrews and just be a knockoff but Suzuma makes it something unique and interesting. IT IS GRAPHIC and I would not recommend this to anyone who is younger than 17 AND dont read this if you are in anyway close minded or you will hate it. It takes a very open minded person to take this book for what it is and not judge it instantly. Their love story is heart breaking and instead of feeling disgusted by it you feel sorry for them and hoping everything will work out. Their life is so screwed up because of their mother etc. they find happiness in each other and that becomes the love they have for each other. No 16 & 17 year old should have to help raise 3 younger siblings and for them nothing ever goes right. The ending is heart wrenching but I recommend this book to anyone who can take a little bit of strangeness.

    24 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Very SAD but Highly Recommended!!!

    May contain spoilers
    I was desperately hoping that Lochan would eventually be revealed that he's not biologically related to Maya. I certainly thought so, especially because his eyes are beautifully green and Maya and the rest of the children' are deep blue.
    Gosh, how I hated the ending!!!
    Lochan was so sweet, so mature, so loving, so handsome, so kind and responsible; he was too brave, too selfless, it bothered me how it ended up like that for him!!!!! I literally bawled at the end. Too sad, If I knew the ending was like that, I would have never started reading, never cared if this book is that great like people said it is. The ending just didn't do it for me. I was shattered when I learned about Lochan's ending. And I then skimmed through the Epilogue. Too sad to bear. If only there is an alternative ending. I would rate this as my most favorite book.

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful

    Lochan Whitely is seventeen, painfully shy, and struggling to take care of his siblings. His mother is a drunk, and spends all of her time working or shacking up with her new boyfriend. She is so desperate to be loved by this man that she has shunned her children. Lochan spends his days getting the kids ready for school, attending his own classes, cooking, cleaning, making sure homework is done, the kids are in bed on time and then getting his own homework done. The only shining light in his life is Maya. His best friend, his soul mate, the love of his life. The problem is, Maya is also his sixteen-year-old sister.

    Maya helps Lochan any way she can. If it weren't for her, things would fall apart quickly. The two of them struggle to keep their family together, making sure everything is done, the kids are safe and child protective services stays far away. Maya soon realizes that she, too, has feelings for Lochan. The bond they share is strong. To them, they feel more like friends than siblings. They've been through so much together and have acted like parents to their siblings for so long that it is almost like they are a couple. But this type of love between siblings is wrong. Sick and twisted. Something that shouldn't be thought about let alone acted upon. Eventually Maya and Lochan can no longer hide their true feelings for one another, and their romance blossoms into a relationship of fierce desire. They know it is wrong, and they know it can never go as far as they both want it to, but how do you fight something that you both want so badly?

    I must admit, when I first read the synopsis of this book I was a little put off. How could a book with this subject matter possibly be worth reading? I had the galley, but wasn't sure I could read it until I read some of the reviews. It seemed most everyone who'd read the book was raving about it. I decided to give it a shot. If it grossed me out too bad, I could always stop reading it. I went in expecting to hate it, but what I found was a beautiful story about love. Ms. Suzuma has taken a premise that is shocking and possibly offensive to some and turns it into a story that is heart-achingly beautiful. As I read the book and watched Maya and Lochan realize their feelings for one another and struggle against them, I couldn't help but wish that somehow things could be different so they could actually be together the way they wanted to be.

    The characters are well-developed, the writing is strong and the story, though repetitive at times, flows well. The author really makes the reader think about what is right and what is wrong as far as love is concerned. The story grabs you and won't let go, and the ending will rip your heart out then feed it to you. Romeo & Juliet have nothing on Maya & Lochan

    NOTE: This book is definitely not suitable for younger teens or those that are easily offended

    (Review copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab)

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A story so real, cruel and heartfelt and all about being absolute it hurts. I have never read a novel that touched me and that left me so shattered and shaken like FORBIDDEN !

    Disgusting...

    Shocking...

    Disturbing...

    Unnatural...

    people might label a book about incest, a book like FORBIDDEN. I would have done the same, if I hadn't read it myself. I expected the worst and got the best and heartfelt book I could imagine when thinking of books that deal with taboo topics like incest. This book IS shocking, but in an intense and good way.

    Being different...

    In FORBIDDEN we meet the Whitley family, consiting of the children Lochan, Maya, Kit, Tiffin and Willa. Lochan is the troubled, but brilliant big brother, Maya, the brave and strong older sister. Abandoned by their mother they care for their siblings Kit, gang member, always angry and aggressive, Tiffin, the hyperactive and Willa, the youngest and most in need of care and affection. Every single character highly contributes to this novel's uniqueness.

    What shouldn't be said: "I love you"

    When I first read the summary of FORBIDDEN I imagined the two protagonists wouldn't know each other. I thought of their first meeting, them falling in love only to discover that they are brother and sister. I was shocked when I realised that they knew about being brother and sister when they fell in love!

    But their love is so not about being rebellious or provocative, it's all about the circumstances their love develops in. They both care for three siblings and a constantly drunk mother (I could strangle that woman! A monther abandoning their family made me sad and so angry.How can a mother be that careless about her beautiful children?) so they are kind of forced into threir role as parents- mother and father, husband and wife- lovers. Maya and Lochan give each other the feelings of affection und support that are constantly missing in their lives.

    Something wrong feels so right...

    I am always a fan of love stories and reading romantic and steamy scenes. But I shouldn't be a fan of brother and sister falling in love, right? They are supposed to stay away from each other and I couldn't help but hope for them to get together, for their love to have a chance, a future. The whole time I knew I shouldn't cheer on their love, I shouldn't want them to touch, kiss or be together, but I DID.

    If you decide to read FORBIDDEN you have to expect many love and sexual interactions. Suzuma gives us a lot of delicate details without degrading their love or turning their feelings into something disgusting or dirty. Their feelings are natural and therefore they deserve to be written about in detail. Again I craved for more, although I shouldn't!

    "You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see,but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”~Anonymous

    Every tiny detail makes this novel perfect, what really touched me and connected me even further with the story was its initial quote.

    The dual point of view, alternating between Lochan and Maya is the best Suzuma could have applied to tell their love story. Their voices are so unique and touching, fitting perfectly together to tell one of the most tragic love stories of all time.

    This story is supported by a rich, complex and vivid language that adjusts to each situation like a chameleon, always highlighting each scene's highest potential. Suzuma has a talent for catching a mood and describing an atmosphere. Her language and writing is the rope that's tying you to the swaying boat of FORBIDDEN's story during a storm of emotions and impressions.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Makes You Think Twice About What Love Is

    Forbidden took me about five or six days to get through, which is quite unusual for me, but Tabitha Suzuma's novel about the most forbidden kind of love - incest - between a brother and a sister is all kinds of uncomfortable and heartbreaking and the kind of book that makes the reader rethink everything they have ever believed.

    Lochan and Maya are a mere 13 months apart in age and should still be able to behave as young adults, but they can't because they have three younger siblings that they are responsible for. Their alcoholic mother is never around so Kit, Tiffin, and Willa are their responsibility; their children, in a way. Lochan and Maya never really come off as simply siblings. They are best friends, and then more.

    I'll be honest, Forbidden made me uncomfortable at times. Incest is something that most people - myself included - don't talk about or even think about. I never gave it any thought because it isn't connected to my life. Venturing into Lochan and Maya's growing feelings for one another made me realize just how squirmy it made me feel. It makes them uncomfortable too, which I think is realistic. Neither of them truly wants to feel the way they do, they just do.

    Maya and Lochan's back and forth about how to handle it, what to do, is their own personal brand of torture. Lochan struggles everyday with his feelings and getting to see that, made their relationship that much more emotional. I can't exactly relate to Lochan and Maya's situation, but I was able to empathize.

    Lochan is slightly older and reads as a more mature character, taking consequences into consideration, while Maya is more willing to delve into something. In the end though, both come off as selfish, in a way. Neglecting the consequences and diving headfirst into a relationship that puts their futures and the future of their siblings in jeopardy. I won't say that I didn't find Forbidden a little disturbing, because I did. It's incest, but then Suzuma's writing is very sexy, very visceral. She doesn't hold back, so there are some more graphic scenes. Definitely more than just a little kissing.

    Tabitha Suzuma expertly crafts an intimate relationship that most believe should not exist, that society has deemed unlawful, and made it personal. She made me care so much for the Whitely family - not just Lochan and Maya, but for Kit and Tiffin and Willa and the abandonment that all these children have suffered. After so much pain, I could only think that if this one thing - this love between Lochan and Maya - made them happy, then why can't they have that. Society sees it as wrong and there are repercussions to a sexual relationship, but the fear they go through made me hope for the best for them, while preparing for the worst.

    That being said, I couldn't help but shy away from the more sexual scenes. This book is certainly not for everyone, but a lot can be gleaned from it. Incest is a word that people don't really throw around a lot. It's a taboo that we want to ignore, but then jump at the chance to scrutinize those in the situation. Maybe we shouldn't. Maybe the notion of love should be looked at in a different light, with a different view, because Forbidden is a love story. An uneasy, somewhat unnerving, tragic, and heartbreaking (I almost cried near the end) love story, but a love story nonetheless. It was an eye-opening and emotional experience for me and I hope others give this book a chance to make them see the world just a little bit diff

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    One of the best!

    I got a UK copy of this, and it is seriously one of the best books I've ever read. It's probably tied for #1 with Cassie Clare's mortal instruments. This book is amazing. I rarely cry or tear up for a book, and bawled like baby during this book. This book is a ride of emotions but it was so absolutely amazing. Defiantly pre-order or buy it!!! You'll be blown away.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2012

    Amazing!

    This book, Wow I dont even know what to say. It is probably one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and extremely emotional books I have ever read. Suzuma makes you fall deeply in love with the kids and I found myself hoping that Lochan and Maya could have the perfect life they wanted. While the theme of incest can be a little off putting to some people, the way the author handles it makes you quesion love the way Lochan and Maya both do. Be warned though, the ending is extremely sad, so bring tissues. Even though I wish the ending had been different, this book is amazing and will make you think about the characters long after you have finished the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    A story to remember

    A new kind of Romeo and Juliet...this story will open your mind while breaking your heart. This novel caught me a bit off guard at first. I never thought I would find myself reading a book regarding incest... or even enjoying it; but this book took me by storm! It is so beautifully written that it makes you hope that everything works out even if the entire circumstance is taboo.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Even though the ending was super sad(I almost cried), I thought

    Even though the ending was super sad(I almost cried), I thought it was realistic and honest. The entire book is sad because it reflects reality: children who are ignored by their parents and who are forced to grow up quick. I thought the story was very complex and addressed the taboo issue of incest rather well, which is hard to do since no one ever likes to talk about it.

    I think Tabitha did an amazing job with the characterization because I deeply felt for the characters in this story. I felt like I knew Lochan and Maya so well. I love when the writer gets into the character's thoughts and feelings because it brings me closer to them. I also loved the switch of narration between Lochie and Maya. It brought their different perspectives of what transpired throughout the novel.

    Tabitha also knows how to use descriptions very well and that brought the story to life even more. I really liked how she started the book with the detailed description of the flies on the windowsill. "I gaze at the small, crisp, burned-out black husks scattered across the chipped white paint of the windowsills. It is hard to believe that they were ever alive." Not a lot of YA writers are big on details these days, so it was refreshing to start a book in this way.

    This book also made me think a lot, too. Why we label certain things taboo, wrong, etc. I also thought it was brave of Tabitha to bring up the assumption that only men can be rapists. This is completely untrue, but unfortunately society likes to carry this belief. As a feminist, it angers me that society only sees men as the rapists and abusers when women inflict pain as well. Anyone can be an abuser; gender doesn't matter in this case. Unfortunately, society likes to think otherwise.

    Something I also liked about this novel was how it kept me guessing at how it was going to end. It's kind of disappointing when I can figure out the ending in books, but this one had me guessing. I knew it wasn't going to end pretty, but I kept wondering exactly how it was going to end.

    Even though it was a very sad read, it was also a very good one. I hope Tabitha releases a new book sometime soon because she has incredible talent.

    *I was lucky enough to receive this book through Goodreads First Reads last year in March.*

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Let's go ahead and get it out of the way now. Some people might

    Let's go ahead and get it out of the way now. Some people might be inclined to say that Forbidden is a story about incest. I say they're wrong. Forbidden is a story about love. It just so happens that the love is between a brother and a sister. Yes, that is incest. I realize this. To say that Forbidden is only a story about incest, though, wouldn't be doing it justice. Now that we've got that out of the way...

    I don't have words to do this book justice. I just don't. There's nothing I can say to make anyone understand how amazing I think this book is. Forbidden blew my mind. I went in with high expectations (after reading such good reviews) and I wasn't disappointed. The writing was superb. The storyline was unbelievable. I fell in love with the characters (well, except for Lochan's and Maya's mother, I hated her).

    The most important part of the entire book for me was the fact that you're always aware of the sibling relationship between Lochan and Maya. What's bigger and more important than that, though, is their love. Even though Lochan and Maya are brother and sister, never once did I feel disgusted or repulsed by their love. It's so incredibly hard to explain and I think that's what makes it such an amazing book. Forbidden expertly blurs the lines between what society has deemed right and wrong between a brother and a sister. And it isn't about sex. It's about love, pure love.

    This book broke my heart. Absolutely and utterly broke my heart. The ending, oh my gosh. I have no words at all for the ending of Forbidden.

    Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, without a single doubt. The only thing I could possibly say, though, is if you decide to read it, please keep an open mind. If you read this book with an open mind, I am sure you will love it just as much as I did.

    Side note: A few people on Goodreads have recommended songs to listen with Forbidden. A review that I read recommended Together by Pet Shop Boys. I would agree that this is the song for Lochan and Maya. (Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the review that makes this suggestion, so I am unable to give credit for it. Sorry!)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2012

    at first when i started reading this book i honestly thought it

    at first when i started reading this book i honestly thought it was twisted and sick but then through out the story it was amazing and the end had to be one of the most heartbreaking ending i ever ready. I honestly never cried for book but this one made me cry it was a heartbreaking ending but an amazing book . 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2012

    Riveting. I couldn't put it down..

    Wow. Where to begin. I was disgusted yet intrigued when I read the back cover, but was hooked after the first 3 pages. An amazing an unexpected love story. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me as I began to understand and deeply sympathize with the characters, but read the hundreds of other reviews that were in the same boat. Suzuma does a beautiful job with character development and you start to really identify with their plight. The love, the drama, the tragedy, the pain and anguish, the suffering, colossal and heartbreaking losses, and even moments of hilarity will fill you with emotion. So real and so powerful.. Definitely the best novel I've read this year.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    VERY VERY GOOD BOOK! A MUST READ! I LOVED IT!

    VERY VERY GOOD BOOK! A MUST READ! I LOVED IT!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    AMAZING

    This was hands down a very amazing book. Very well written, written with grace and poise of a very intense topic. The ending was sad, but realistic; do wish it was happier in the end though, but to be fair, that's not how the world works.

    Props to Tabitha for writing this, hope to read more from her!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Bellanique14

    This book was a great read. It contains really diffrent type of romance. The most forbidden kind. I had a hard time deciding if i even wanted to read it. Butdo to some of the other reviews i was perswayded to. I iam very glad i did. The book is beautifully written and had a great plot line. The romance was very deep and real.....sad bit exciting (do not read this book ifyou are easily affended by sexual coduct......dont read if you r under 16. It goes deep into the charactors sexual relationship i often found myself blushing durring sertain parts ) The ending really broke my heart didnt see it coming but i dont regret reading it.every teen should.


    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Simply Amazing!

    Her book was well crafted and beautifully written.
    The book left tears in my eyes. Beautiful story! I highly recommend this!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Heartbreaking

    I have to honestly say that after reading the synopsis of this story I wasn't sure if I REALLY wanted to read it or not. I did however push on through any reservations I had and was glad I did. Though I did hope for an alternative ending this book had me riveted! A love story that you know is doomed but you wish for something different. The characters draw you in and won't let you go.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2014

    Forbidden

    Great. Very well done. So beautiful, and heartbreaking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    A heartfelt page turner!

    Started out a tid-bit slow, but then sucks you righ in! Could't put it down! Great, but truely sad love story!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Forbidden Love

    Slight spoilers..

    Since i have just finished read and tears are still falling i should review.
    The loving relationship that developed between Lochen and Maya to some may be seen as disturbing but its beautiful. A love that has no bounds...From the start they tried to fight it but in the end love wins...Tears flowed through out the wholebook from tears of happiness to sorrow in the end.

    Taboo stories like this are not seen the way they appear simetimes and for this author to write it is a accomplishment.

    Forget Romeo and Juliet...Lochen and Mayas love is one that should be told throught the ages...

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