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)