Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

10194514Pushing the Limits
by Katie McGarry
July 31, 2012
Harlequin Teen
384 pages
Source: Southern Book Bloggers
ARC Tours

“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again. (Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

“My father is a control freak, I hate my stepmother, my brother is dead and my mother has…well…issues. How do you think I’m doing?”

My Take On It

With that opening line you know this is going to be one of those contemporary ‘issues’ books, and I LOVE books  like this so I was very excited to read Pushing the Limits. There as been a lot of buzz about this book, much of it being compared to Simone Elkeles Perfect Chemistry series (which I LOVE.)  And look, right on the cover is an endorsement from that author. So, did Pushing the Limits live up to the hype?
Like the Perfect Chemistry series, Pushing the Limits (PTL) features a dual narrative, the reader gets to see into the mind of both Echo and Noah. Okay so first off, the name Echo.  I am a HUGE nerd when it comes to classical Greek mythology. HUGE.
I have been hooked on Greek mythology ever since! I have succeeded in hooking my 9 year old as well:) Anyway, I know the myths concerning Echo, a nymph who loses her voice and can only parrot back what other people say.  I love that the author uses this as the name for her protagonist in PTL, because it’s pretty symbolic.  You see McGarry’s Echo has some issues with authority. Or to be more precise, she has issues saying “no” to anyone in authority. This can be a bad thing at times. And Echo always aims to please, her father, her counselors, her friends, everyone.  We know from her inner monologue that she she often feels very differently than how she acts. I liked Echo’s character, although it was hard for me to step into her shoes and understand her completely because I have never had a traumatic experience like she did. Even still, I sympathized with her situation and wanted to see her life improve.
Noah’s character was somehow easier for me to get into. Like Echo, he also has a problem with authority, most specifically the social services department and the foster care system that he and his two younger brothers are entrenched in since their parents death a couple of years earlier. Noah also has anger issues, and these have gotten him into enough trouble that he now bears the label of troublemaker and has restricted visitations with his brothers.
So this is definitely a case of both “opposite attract” and the “bad boy falling for the good girl.” And like many of those type storylines, we discover that the bad boy truly isn’t as bad as he seems and vice versa. There was a certain amount of predictability in PTL, but I enjoyed the book and the story nevertheless. Like the Perfect Chemistry series, there are PLENTY of steamy moments, and of course, I love reading those:)
There are quite a few excellent examples of secondary characters. My favorites are the school counselor Mrs. Collins, who represents a person of authority that both Echo and Noah learn to trust. Mrs. Collins, unlike some of the other adults in the book, really does seem to have both Echo and Noah’s best interests at heart.
I also loved Noah’s friends Isiah and Beth.  Like Noah, they are caught up in the foster care system and have a host of family and personal problems. But I love how loyal they were to each other, they always had each other’s backs, and I love how complicated they both were, Beth in particular. You know I love reading about a bad girl, and Beth is definitely got that vibe going on.
Echo’s friends on the other hand were pretty awful. Caught up in the dramas of high school and all that THAT entails, it was hard for me to find many redeeming qualities in any of them. This made me feel even more for Echo, who desperately is in need of true friends. It was also an interesting juxtaposition: the good girl’s friends suck and the bad boy’s friends rock.  Again, somewhat predictable, but I appreciate the fact that McGarry took the time to flesh out these supporting roles.

I also really like how the teenagers in this book spoke and acted like teenagers (at least how the teenagers I know act.) The situations they find themselves in, those that involve house parties, drinking, and even some drug use, all ring true to me. It’s definitely how I remembered high school to be. I like it when author’s keep it real, and McGarry does just that.

While I really enjoyed the characters, and really enjoyed the romance between Echo and Noah, there were a couple of things that kept me from completely embracing this book and loving it as much as I did The Perfect Chemistry Series.
Karen, over at For What It’s Worth,  wrote a great review for PTL and in it she said one of her pet peeves was how Noah is always referring to Echo as his muse, his siren, or his goddess. After reading the book, I TOTALLY get what she was saying. Again, LOVE the Greek mythology connection, but after the first few times it did get a bit old. Pet names are fine, but any pet name used over and over gets irritating. It’s minor, but like Karen, it also caught my attention and bothered me a bit.
The other aspect that kept me hanging back a bit and not fully buying into the story was all the DRAMA. Holy cow, I know it’s an issue book (I stated that I loved them from start, and I DO) but as my friend Jen at Jen Ryland/ YA Romantics  said so eloquently in her review of PTL, this book “teeters on the edge of  melodrama.”  It does.
I told Jen it would make a fantastic CW or ABC Family television series, it’s very much in the same realm as Pretty Little Liars, The Secret Life of the American Teenager and so on.  Now I know this sort of thing doesn’t bother everyone, and no, it’s not a deal breaker for me in terms of this book. But just know that its heavy on the drama.
Overall I liked PTL, and I liked McGarry’s open writing style. This is her debut and I am definitely curious to see how her writing develops in future books. And speaking of future books, her next will be a companion novel featuring one of my fave characters from PTL, Beth! My ARC even had the first chapter of the book, entitled Dare You To, and I’m very excited to read more.
4/5 Stars