Forbidden (by Tabitha Suzuma)

5 06 2011

OK, first things first: the cat is not squeamish about taboo subjects in YA-fiction. On the contrary. Whenever an author tries to do something different, be it in style or by the whackiness of a book’s content, or even by putting up an apparent language barrier, the cat’s the first to give this type of thing a chance. So taboo subject, not an issue here… However, when everything you get is melodrama, uncomfortably cheap puppy-dog dialogue, and unsympathetic, not to mention irresponsible characters, then the cat would rather leave it… Unfortunately that’s exactly what Tabitha Suzuma gave her with her latest apparently overly raved about Forbidden. A big fat, pffffffff

Forbidden is about the (consensual) incestuous relationship between 17-year-old Lochan, and his 16-year-old sister Maya. Together with their 3 siblings, Kit, Tiffin and Willa, they live in London, trying their hardest to stay off the Social Services radar. They do this mostly without their alcoholic party-it-up mother, who spends more time at her new (younger) boyfriend Dave’s place  trying to pretend she’s 20 years younger than she actually is, than in her own house, leaving the running of the Whitely household up to Maya and Lochan. The two are quite happy to play Mom and Dad in all possible ways. Suzuma builds up the almost claustrophobic relationship of Lochan and Maya in a carefully tedious way to the point where “being together, [they] harm nobody; being apart, [they] extinguish [themselves].” In the end, though, what you get is your average, totally predictable tale of “forbidden love”… except here there are no vampires involved…you almost start to wish there were because of how one-dimensional this teenage tale of love’n’lust often feels – and this despite the fact that Suzuma wants to show that for Lochan and Maya their relationship feels right and wrong at the same time, and how conflicted they are about it all. Ooooooooh

This brings me to the second thing which totally and almost insanely irked the cat: the annoying excessively sentimental way of writing; the whole this is first love of us against the world way of thinking and especially writing. Really, the melodrama that would even put Edward Cullen to shame is excruciating here. Again, just like with the concept of a taboo subject, it’s not so much the feelings themselves that are objectionable (I get the adolescent awkwardness and newness of those hormonal feelings, nothing wrong with that), but it’s the way these feelings are described in the most cliché, gushy and melodramatic way imaginable! Here’s another example: “As the light begins to intensify, so does my misery, and I wonder how it is possible to hurt so much when nothing is wrong.” Or what did you think of: “There are no laws, no boundaries on feelings. We can love each other as much and as deeply as we want. No one, Maya, no one can ever take that away from us.” And this goes on for over 400 pages! Please, there are enough good editors out there to weed out histrionics like this! To turn a story about a taboo subject like this into more than just a teenage angstfest (complete with fanfic type steamy sex scenes!), at least get your writing in check! Make it special, gritty, crisp… anything but the predictable sentimentality that we get here.

Standing out from the crowd and moving beyond sentimentality when writing a love story is never easy. Add to the love story the forbidden element of incest, and you soon realize that there’s a fine line between compelling reading and sentimental drivel. If Suzuma could get her writing up to par (or if she could get a half decent editor), she might attempt at dealing with a difficult subject like this.  However, this wasn’t the first of Suzuma’s books that the cat read, so the cat’s confidence about this has packed its bags along with any sense of subtlety this type of taboo subject really needed. It seems that Suzuma has exchanged the straightforwardness of her language for explicitness, not to mention repetitiveness, something which is never a good thing. The cat wanted to be surprised or baffled by Forbidden, seeing that it’s a bit of cult hit. Or at the very least, read a book that left her wanting to read more of Suzuma.  Unfortunately, alas… no such thing. Get the cat some subtlety and other wow-factors, stat!



One response

8 07 2014

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