While I tend to gravitate to some subgenres more than others, I read across quite a few romance subgenres, and cross over into other genres of fiction as well. I’d gotten a copy of Forbidden by Syrie James and Ryan M. James at RWA, so that 2012 release became my read for the month. I started off intrigued but it fairly soon segued into what might best be described as hate-reading.
The basic premise of this novel is that high school student Claire Brennan is half-angel and she is only now coming into her powers. Since Claire is unaware of her heritage, she doesn’t initially understand the goings-on around her. She is simply trying to fit in and find her way among her friends at Emerson Academy – and perhaps attract the eye of her crush, Neil. She also catches the attention of the hot new guy, Alec MacKenzie, whose smarts, talent and Scottish accent draw her in as well. And so another YA love triangle begins.
Anyone even remotely paying attention will soon figure out that a lot of what Alec tells fellow students doesn’t add up and that he isn’t remotely what he seems. Alec is in fact an angel – and part of his role is to deal with half-angels like Claire. This setup was at least somewhat interesting, and I initially found myself wanting to get into the story. Sure, the book starts off with info dumps and tons of narrative telling rather than a more reader-entrancing amount of showing.
If you’ve even just scratched the surface of YA paranormal romance in recent years, some of the goings-on in Forbidden will feel a little familiar. We have a hero who, in one scene, surprises the heroine by just being there waiting in her bedroom. And then there’s the scene where one of our possible heroes uses telekinetic powers to save Claire and her friends from serious injury and/or death. Sound like something you may have read before? In case you needed something less subtle to hammer the point home, Alec also uses his powers to control a car. This may not have been intentional, but I couldn’t help thinking of the Twilight saga as I read this book.
At first I wanted to see how coming into her powers might change Claire – and of course I wanted to see what kind of HEA might be in store for her. However, instead of Claire really growing as a character, I felt like she became a full-fledged Mary Sue heroine. She has beautiful hair and after two years of being in a less than popular crowd at school, she suddenly has the attention of two very desirable guys. Oh, and let’s not forget the singing. Claire develops a singing talent that seemingly materializes out of nowhere. It appears to be an angel thing. No one issues her a harp, but there is plenty of angelic singing, both with Neil and with Alec. For Claire to have a talent would have been just fine, but for Claire to suddenly become a hot angelic singer just felt like a bit much.
All of this was by turns dull and eyeroll-inducing for me as a reader, but when one of Claire’s friends slipped in “short-bus” as a slur to describe someone’s thinking, I got very turned off. This occurs roughly midway through the book, so I was already fairly bored with most of the characters. However, it was enough to shift my mood from vaguely irritated to downright annoyed.
If you seriously love YA paranormal, this book might remind you of some of your favorites. In mood and general plotline, it reminded me of several popular stories I’ve tried. However, the writing felt clunkier than what I’ve encountered in most novels I’ve read and I just can’t recommend this one.