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.
I just finished this book and wow, just wow. This book was mind-blowing, disturbing, traumatizing, and really amazingly good. The writing is impeccable, lyrical, and overall beautiful. The story is intense and touching. The characters are remarkable and flawed. A friend of mine recommended this book and I wasn't too sure what I was getting into based on the description and I was a touch apprehensive. I went with the recommendation though and am so glad I did. This book left me in tears and had me rethinking all preconceptions I had about relationships and what is considered 'acceptable'.
The story is told from two points of view; Maya and Lochan. They are brother and sister, but they are thirteen months apart in age, she is sixteen and he is seventeen, and have the roles and responsibilities of parents. Their father left them and their three younger siblings five years prior to the start of the book, and their mother is an alcoholic and basically abandons them for her younger boyfriend. She provides money when threatened with the authorities, but that is pretty much the extent of her involvement with her kids. She comes around occasionally, but is more like a child herself and does little to no parenting. Maya and Lochan have taken over the role of parents in a desperate attempt to keep their family together. Maya is fairly normal mentally, but Lochan suffers from extreme social anxiety and overall generalized anxiety due to the massive amount of pressure he is under with being both a student and a parent. They eventually realize that they are in love with one another and somehow it doesn't seem weird or wrong in this story. They have always had equal, parental roles and have never really viewed each other as brother and sister. They try to deny their feelings knowing it's wrong, but they eventually give into their feelings. I won't give any more of the story away, but needless to say a love story of this kind cannot have a happy ending.
Throughout this book I grew to care about and love these two main characters and their younger siblings, and without meaning to, began to approve of their relationship and root for them. The characters are all so flawed, but likeable and understandable. I was actually a little disturbed by how much I cared for these characters and their socially unacceptable relationship.
This sort of subject matter is very sensitive and hard to make understandable, but Suzuma wrote it so well and with such care. It really changed the way I view the world and societal norms. It is quite remarkable when a writer can write such an addictive and real story and get their readers to rethink the world and society. I now have the urge to go out and get my hands on everything Suzuma has written. This book really just took my breath away.