ForbiddenForbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
Published by Center Street, an imprint of Hachette
Review copy provided by the publisher

In the not too distant future, the leaders of the free world have somehow built a world in which emotions do not exist. The only emotion people have the ability to feel is fear – which is perfect, because it keeps everyone afraid of what might happen if their leaders were ousted, and it keeps them in complete oblivion as to the possibility of living with actual feelings. But one day, a young man named Rom is accosted by an older man and handed a vial of blood that, when consumed, will give him the ability to feel emotions – essentially bringing his soul to life. But at what cost?

I haven’t ever read anything by Ted Dekker, but I’ve been seeing his books around for as long as I can remember. So when the Faith and Fiction Roundtable chose Forbidden as our next selection, I was excited to dive into Dekker’s work (and Tosca Lee’s, of course, although I am less familiar with her previous novels than with Dekker’s). I can definitely say that I enjoyed the experience of reading this novel, and although I won’t count it as a favorite by any means, I’m intrigued enough by the story to  want to read the sequel upon its release.

There were two huge aspects of the novel that I found to be discussion-worthy. The first, which is something that Hannah pointed out too, is that Dekker and Lee did an excellent job illustrating how important emotions are to our humanity. I am, by nature, an extremely emotional person – the kind of person you see described as “wearing her heart on her sleeve”. I tend to get my feelings hurt easily, I tend to care deeply about things that others might not spend one iota of time thinking about, and sometimes my emotions get in the way of what needs to be accomplished in my life (for example, career-wise). I’ve always thought of this as a negative part of my personality, especially in the sense that emotions don’t mix well with the industry in which I am employed. But I was cheered by how clear Forbidden showed how valuable emotions really are. And how, if we were to lose our ability to feel, everything that is essentially human about us would be gone too. It’s true – the fact that we can feel love, pain, sadness, etc., is an essential part of being human, and I loved how much the book reminded me that it is okay to be emotional at times. It makes me human.

The second aspect of Forbidden that was discussion-worthy, and this one I admit I didn’t talk about with the Roundtable participants, is the idea of using fear as a tool to manipulate the public. In this world, there is only one emotion which is fear, but that allows the people to be completely under their leaders’ spell. This reminded me a lot of the way sometimes politicians in the US – and the media, too – will use fear as a tactic to manipulate people’s thought processes and help them make decisions. Fear is a huge motivator for people, especially when it comes to things that are truly important (such as their kids’ education, keeping a job, being able to retire, etc.) and time and time again I have seen politicians use fear to encourage the public to vote their way. It always saddens me, and it saddens me even more that people fall for it. So I have to admit that this world created by Dekker and Lee didn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. The part where people have zero emotions wasn’t realistic, true. But the part where people allowed the fear instilled in them by their leaders to motivate their decisions? So possible. And scary.

Anyway, Forbidden was an interesting novel that gave me much food for thought. I would recommend the book, but keep in mind it’s very dystopian in nature and not exactly the most realistic of novels. And there is a bit of blood and gore. But I did enjoy it and will be reading the sequel when it is released.

Please visit the other participants of The Faith and Fiction Roundtable to see what they thought of the book!

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