Annotation: When sixteen-year-old Claire Brennan meets new student Alec MacKenzie on the first day of school, she is immediately intrigued by his quiet, intelligent nature. Her life changes forever one day, when she learns the truth about Alec: he is a Grigori, an Earthbound angel assigned to eliminate the descendents of children conceived between angel and human.
Personal thoughts: I had heard that this novel was becoming quite popular, so I decided to give it a try, especially since the premise sounded intriguing. Although I thought it was well-written and entertaining enough, after completing the novel I ended up having fairly neutral feelings towards it. I think there are a lot of similarities to other books in the genre, especially Twilight, which is something I don’t normally enjoy saying even when I observe it. In this case, however, some situations were just too apparent for me to ignore, particularly the whole “boy rescues girl and exposes his supernatural powers” scene. That being said, however, I think there is definitely a place for this novel and subsequent series as a read-alike for Twilight fans. The romance between Alec and Claire is very sweet, and I imagine that many teen girls will lap this story up.
Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Claire Brennan has always been a bit of a loner. Constantly moving from place to place, she and her mother have never lived anywhere long enough for Claire to be one of the “popular kids.” For the past two years, she’s been going to Emerson Academy: an elite private school in Los Angeles where she works hard to maintain the scholarship that pays for her tuition. Claire has two good friends at Emerson, Erica and Brian, and hopes that she and her mom have finally found a place to stay put. Everything changes when Claire meets Alec MacKenzie on the first day of her junior year. With a thick Scottish accent and a strange but handsome appearance, Claire isn’t sure what to think of the new guy on campus. As she and Alec grow closer, however, Claire begins to suspect that there is more to him than meets the eye. Coupled with Claire’s suspicions are a series of strange visions that she has begun to experience: visions of the future that seem to come true. One such vision warns of danger, danger that only Alec can protect her from. Determined to learn the truth, Alec finally confesses his true identity to Claire: he is a Grigori, an Earthbound angel dedicated to eliminating the descendents of the children conceived between angel and human, and Claire is his next assignment.
Review: Written by mother and son duo Syrie and Ryan James, Forbidden, the start to a new paranormal romance series for teens, proves to be a bit of a mixed bag, but still a novel that will appeal to many young adult readers. Set in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, much of Forbidden comes across as a Southern California version of Twilight. Like Bella Swan, Claire Brennan is a quiet, somewhat awkward teen who, with no prior dating experience, finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind romance with a handsome immortal, in this case an angel. There is even a scene where Claire begins to suspect the truth about Alec’s nature after he saves her from a freak scaffolding accident (think Edward stopping the car to save Bella.) These obvious similarities aside, however, Forbidden still has a lot to offer the young adult audience, particularly Twilight fans who are yearning for something similar. Claire is a likable protagonist, as is Alec and the dual-perspectives in the novel make for a nicely paced read. The mythology surrounding the Grigori is also interesting, and also makes the book appealing to fans of the Hush, Hush series. Although Forbidden is nothing astoundingly original or mind-blowing, it is a pleasant and romantic story that many teens will enjoy. The James pair has stated that they plan to write a sequel, but the exact date of its publication has yet to be announced.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck, Falling Under by Gwen Hayes.
Themes: Angels, psychic abilities, romance, fallen angels.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from USA Today and Kirkus.
Series Information: First installment in Forbidden series. Sequel release date has not been announced.
Discussion questions:- Did you like reading the novel from both Claire and Alec’s perspectives? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Alec chose to abandon his duties as a Grigori?
- Which character did you like more: Neil or Alec? Why?
- Why do you think Vincent did what he did?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel?