There are now three years and over five hundred books between me and my completion of Suzuma’s Forbidden. The last three years have seen my reading tastes change a lot; books I used to love often start to pale in comparison to newer treasures who do similar things but do them far better. So I don’t know how I would feel if I read Forbidden now but, going on memory alone, I recall liking it a lot. I thought the author was brave to tackle such a controversial and edgy subject. And I thought it was sad, emotional, moving, powerful… you get me, I’m sure. Basically, all the usual adjectives applied to teen “problem books” that are done well. Well, whether it’s me who has changed or the author, I can’t say without doing a re-read but I can say that I found Hurt to be painfully melodramatic. So much so that the very important subject it focuses on felt like nothing more than fuel for cheap shock tactics.
The book started reasonably well, even if the third person present tense took some getting used to. My memory is fuzzy but there seemed to be a lot more attention paid to detailed descriptions of people and surroundings in this than there was in Forbidden. It’s not a complaint; I actually found myself admiring Suzuma’s pretty writing in the first couple of chapters. The story opens with a confused Matheo Walsh waking up in his destroyed bedroom. He knows that something isn’t right, that there’s a memory he can’t quite recall of something… something really bad. We then get a flashback to bring us to up to speed with who Matheo is. He’s a popular, good-looking, diving champion who seems headed for Olympic gold. He has good friends and a girlfriend who loves him. So the question is: what could have possibly happened to this boy who has everything to turn his life upside down?
I’m not going to come out and say what this book is about – even though I don’t think it’s particularly hard to guess – but I do think it’s something that more needs to be written about. Only recently I was thinking how very few books seem to address this subject after I read another book that touched upon it. I will spoiler tag the name of this other book because, if you’ve read it, it will obviously give a big part of the story away. It’s up to you if you want to know what I’m referring to – (view spoiler)[Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
(hide spoiler)]. Anyway, in my opinion, the approach of this other book worked much better for me. It was more subtle and the build-up to the reveal didn’t feel quite so melodramatic and cringy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that every emotion portrayed in Hurt was over the top and disingenuous.
There’s a lot of drama in this novel that feels like a plot tool to stretch out the length of the book. A lot of Matheo’s feelings are repeated constantly. Every other paragraph seems to include a metaphor for his emotional state, like him jumping from a plane without a parachute or something equally trite. It also focuses a lot on the romance between Matheo and his girlfriend (Lola) and how this is affected by what happens. I understand why it was important, in part, but I got tired of Matheo and Lola’s conversations going around in the same circles of “Are you okay, sweetheart?” “No, but I can’t tell you why” “Yes you can, I love you” “No I can’t” *storms off dramatically* A lot of Hurt seems to be about the characters wandering around in the same cycles of conversation and thought until Matheo eventually admits what’s wrong.
Lola also annoyed me the more the book went on. She is an astonishingly under-developed character despite having such a central role to play in the story. She exists in this book solely as Matheo’s girlfriend; she seems to live for him and not have a thought for anything beyond him and their relationship. Who is she? What does she want other than Matheo? What does she care about? She stands by waiting to tell Matheo she loves him when the occasion calls for it. Other than that, though, she is nothing more than a throwaway character.
In the other book I mentioned before, the big reveal doesn’t matter so much. It matters only in that we care about the main character and want him to be okay (well, I did). The problem with Hurt is how everything is built up around the mystery of what happened to Matheo and who was responsible for it. So if, like me, you manage to figure out (from a bunch of clues that were totally obvious, if you ask me) exactly what is going on, then there’s little else here for you. Everything about this book felt contrived and full of melodrama that left me cold and unmoved. There’s also a nice big tragedy at the end that only made me angry and annoyed at the stupid characters and the book itself. Very disappointed.
Two stars for writing about an important issue and not completely boring me. But no more because of everything I’ve said above.