This is not a story about a forbidden romance. It's more than that. It's a story of a dysfuntional family, centering around two children barely of legal age, forced to grow up before their time because of their irresponsible parents. An absent father and an alcoholic mother meant that the two eldest had little choice but to wise up and be stand-in parents for their younger siblings - and it's no easy task. It was a stressful burden, and it showed.
Lochan and Maya's alternate POVs were used to tell this story, and (good news!) it wasn't difficult to distinguish the identity of the narrator in each chapter. Lochan was rather prone to long-winded thoughts, which could be a bit boring at times, so I skimmed. He was also very much an introvert, so much so that it was verging on being a psychological problem (the inability to communicate with non-family members). I'm not sure if his condition made sense to me, because none of his other siblings had it - even though he'd endured worse than them, yes; of the 5 children he was probably the most unwanted and his mother spared no pains to remind him so. Their parents were horribly unfit to be parents.
Logan was a complex character. He couldn't help himself, and wouldn't let others help him. He was so terrified of what would constitute "help" from outsiders, and rightly so, because whether he liked it or not, him and Maya were not fit, either, to take care of their siblings, anymore than their parents were. He wouldn't be the first of elder siblings in the history of the world to bring up the younger ones, but society these days in the country he lived in would not allow him to. There was a pervasive undercurrent fear of being found out and separated by the authorities.
Maya, in comparison, felt more normal as a person. The beauty of the writing in this book is that the characters felt - to me - like real people; their thoughts, actions, emotions and struggles felt real.
A love so taboo that it is not even included in a conversation about illicit relationships.
It's no secret that the romance in this book, such as it was, consisted of an incestous relationship between the main characters, who were siblings. Throughout the tale I was sitting there, thinking that this could well be hormones talking, because they're in their late teens and it would not be surprising for them to fall in love with somebody, and who else would you expect someone like Lochan to fall in love with, if he was going to? Being a loner, he was totally unexposed to society, the only girl his age that he was able to talk to was his sister.
This attraction between them had always been there. We were introduced to Lochan's character in a chapter narrated by Maya and vice-versa - it was pretty clear that they both recognised the other as physically attractive. However, recognising each other's attractiveness does not necessarily means romantic attraction - it was later on, in two separate incidents, when they were unable to deny any longer their feelings for each other. When Maya was in denial, she described their relationship akin to being "twins", as opposed to her post-denial assertion that they're "partners" and "equals". She can't see him as her brother
anymore, now that she's faced her feelings for him, but her sisterly love for her other brother Kit remained unchanged.
Their circumstances in this story was a very important factor, because all these circumstances combined made their romantic love for each other feel so natural. Which makes this, I feel, an admirable piece of writing, albeit a rather controversial one. I'm not sure, however, that if they would fall in love with each other if they'd been born as siblings in better circumstances, because I think humans these days are indoctrinated not to fall in love with their own siblings; they have to be really isolated, like Lochan and Maya were, in order for something like this to happen.
This review has turned out to be much longer than I expected. Therefore I shall end it with this very short verdict: Worth a read.