Saturday, August 31, 2013
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Read for August Secret Reader
Welp. I devoured that one.
Can I have more, please?
Pushing the Limits is not my typical read - no supernatural, no fantasy or scifi, no mystery or action - but that didn't stop me from eagerly turning pages until the very end. Katie McGarry didn't reinvent the wheel in terms of setting or plot, but her characters, Echo and Noah in particular, wouldn't let me go.
The plot of Pushing the Limits follows tragic good-girl-with-a-mysterious-past Echo and tragic bad-boy-with-a-violent-past Noah as they're forced together by their mutual guidance counselor and find love and healing across social lines. While the details of Echo's memory loss and scars, as well as what happened to Noah's parents intrigued me, the parts I enjoyed the most were the sessions with Mrs. Collins, the guidance counselor, and the one-on-one time Noah and Echo shared.
I always appreciate authors who write characters - especially teenagers - that are real. McGarry's teenagers drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex, but all in the way that teens do. Echo isn't suddenly a bad girl because she gets drunk at a party and Noah isn't irredeemable because he smokes weed.
I give McGarry kudos for writing a bad boy that actually deserved his reputation. Noah's not a saint. While he might have been on the fast track to All-American Golden Boy status, his parent's death changed everything. He does become (justifiably) violent, he does have a temper, he does sleep with any girl he happens to be interested in, he does smoke weed, he does have tattoos, he swears a lot and he's got very little interest in school and preparing for a future that he doesn't think that he'll have.
As he and Echo get to know each other, he's not perfect and doesn't say the right thing all of the time, but he listens to her in a way that her friends and hideous wannabe boyfriend won't. McGarry doesn't have Noah change for his good-girl, but rather return to the person he used to be.
As a former member of the popular in-crowd, Echo is essentially crippled by her new outsider status - not to mention the scars on her arms that she can't remember getting. I had a much harder time relating to Echo than Noah, but I am not as petrified of authority as she is. The opening chapter, where Echo, her father and her step-mother are in a group therapy session with Mrs. Collins made me cringe. I couldn't understand how Echo could let her father dictate her life like he did. Then I saw how the same things happened with her friends, her ex-boyfriend Luke, basically everyone she encountered, and I realized that what Echo really needed was a backbone.
Noah helps her find it - or rather, he helps her find the girl that she used to be as well.
Romance novels always claim to feature two people who need each other for whatever reason, but Pushing the Limits really delivers. Noah's I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude clashes with Echo's need to please and as they spend more time together, they balance each other out and it's wonderful to read.
The end doesn't tie everything up in a nice, neat bow, with all wrongs being righted and all amends being made. Echo gets the answers she's been searching for about the night she got her scars, but her reunion with her mother is far from satisfying. I personally thought she was far too forgiving with her father and step-mother, but I have a cold, dead heart. ;P Noah doesn't achieve his exact goal, but he manages to find a solution that's far more realistic for his situation. Despite that vague summary, I was completely satisfied with the way things were wrapped up.
If I were to have any criticisms it would be that some of the dialogue felt wrong - more than once I had a "teenagers don't talk like that" reaction. Some of the characters were so extreme - Grace, Echo's father - in their refusal to accept or listen to Echo that I almost had to put the book down. Both of these "complaints" are minor, however, and I am anxious to read more of McGarry's writing.