Author: Katie McGarry
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
"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.
"An edgy romance that pulls you in and never lets go. I was hooked!"-Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of the Intertwined series.
It's been a long long time since I've given any book 5 Stars but Pushing the Limits pulled me in from the first page and held my attention to the very last! Dark, edgy, and perfect. Need I say more? Okay, probably...so I will.
Honestly, I was going to wait and write this review in a couple of days but I was discussing it with my girls over at Starbooks and I became inspired. I've never been much of a contemporary fan, but I'm finding myself reading more and more of them lately. I think it's because I love the darkness of paranormal romance and contemporary tends to be light-hearted and a little too happily-ever-after for me. Not a problem with Katie McGarry's debut Pushing the Limits.
Two teens who have been through traumatic and horrifying life-altering events. One withdraws into herself and the other becomes the bad boy you can't help but love. If Noah and Echo could be summed up as "withdrawn" and "typical bad boy" then 5 stars wouldn't be called for. Fortunately, Ms. McGarry has created deep and complex characters who embodied so many emotions I sometimes felt a little overwhelmed. But...people, especially hormonal teenagers, are never as clearly cut and simple as some writers would have you believe.
"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?" - Echo
So many times when an author writes about tragedies I feel like I am standing on the outside looking in. I connected with Echo instantly. Because Echo has suppressed her "incident," the reader discovers what happened to her as Echo remembers the bits and pieces. Watching her put the puzzle together created a perfect amount of suspense. Gosh...I really don't want to write any spoilers, but I can't really avoid this one. Spoiler Warning: Even though I knew Echo should avoid her mother at all costs, I completely understood her need to seek her out. Partially because Echo needed to understand why her mom did what she did and partially just because her mom is her mom...you know? Spoiler over!
"I wrote about the person I love the most, my older brother, Noah. We don't live together so I wrote what I imagine he does when we're not together."
"And what is that?" prodded the stout man.
"He's a superhero who saves people in danger, because he saved me and my brother from dying in a fire a couple of years ago. Noah is better than Batman." The crowd chuckled.
"I love you, too, lil' bro." - Noah and his brother Jacob.
And Noah...well, let's just say WOW! Talk about a young man with issues who has handled them horribly, but I understood every broken piece of him and could imagine myself reacting in the same ways. There's so much depth to his character. Yes, he is the pot-smoking, gave up on life, who gives a damn guy...at least on the outside. Internally, he has two younger brothers he loves and wants nothing more than to assure they are safe. Victims of a horrible house fire that took their parents, these three boys got thrown into the "system" and separated. Noah's innate instinct to protect all children earns him the reputation of being unstable and violent, so his visitation rights with his brothers range from monthly supervised to nonexistent. But Noah doesn't give up easily. Noah's love for his brothers and their family bond brought a whole other level of emotional attachment to his story.
We'd read about sirens in English this fall; Greek mythology bullshit about women so beautiful, their voices so enchanting, that men did anything for them. Turned out that mythology crap was real, because every time I saw her, I lost my mind. - Noah
Noah earned my love and devotion not only because of his blood family devotion but his devotion to foster siblings too. Anybody who is as protective and supportive as Noah is innately good, no matter how much they wish otherwise. I actually think Noah reminds me a bit of my oldest daughter who has told me on more than one occasion that she's tired of "always being the good girl." I simply remind her that she knows who she is deep inside, no matter what she does or doesn't do.
"Do I need to contact your social worker?"
I headed for the door. "Go ahead. What is she going to do? Rip my family apart? Put me in the foster care system? Continue to dig and you'll see you're too late."
"When was the last time you saw your brothers, Noah?"
My hand froze on the doorknob.
"What if I could offer you increased supervised visitation?"
I let go of the doorknob and sat back down. - Noah and Mrs. Collins
Mrs. Collins may be my favorite adult character in a YA book ever. She's new to the school system but a completely awesome clinical social worker. Whether she meant for the outcome to be what it was or not, she understood both Echo and Noah on a level no one else ever could. Pairing them accomplished much more than I expected and their characters complimented each other perfectly.
"Baby, no one would ever make the mistake of using the word ugly with you. Especially with me around. He pushed the curls off my face, his fingers leaving a burning trail. "Everything about you is beautiful and sexy as hell." - Noah
Both Noah and Echo have so much to overcome and Noah has so much to fight for, including Echo. Their emotional roller-coaster caused the deepest parts of my soul to ache. I wanted to jump in the book and fix everything for them, as impossible as it would be. I think that's where my attachment to Mrs. Collins came from. She always had Noah's and Echo's best interests in mind, even when they didn't like or trust her. And...Mrs. Collins doesn't dwell on making them like her, she gains their trust with actions as opposed to words. Nothing comes easy for any of them, but eventually, things do come together.
I kissed her lips. Soft, full, warm--everything I'd fantasized it would be and more, so much more. Echo hesitantly pressed back, a curious question for which I had a response. I parted my lips and teased her bottom one, begging, praying, for permission...She opened her mouth, her tongue seductively touching mine, almost bringing me to my knees. Flames licked through me as our kiss deepened. Her hands massaged my scalp and neck, only stoking the heat of the fire. - Noah
The book is written in first person from both Echo's and Noah's perspectives. Since I had an egalley from NetGalley, the POV's bled into each other. I'm certain the finished product will be better defined. I loved getting inside Noah's head and seeing his heart-ache. I know some people don't like dual POV's and for so long, it was a huge No-No, but I love seeing more than one side of the story. I'm one of those nosy people who want to know what the other main characters are thinking and third person omniscient sometimes seems a step or two removed for me.
My final thoughts:
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is a book filled with warring emotions. Pain and numbness. Loss and gain. Heart-ache and love. Dark intermingled with moments of light. Brutality and gentleness. Two teenagers who lose everything separately and then find their way together. There is nothing I didn't love about this book. The emotions are raw and gripping, the friendships real and imperfect, and the romance is slow burning, building into a heated flame of passion.
Side note: If there were any problems with the writing, I was too absorbed in the story-line to notice. Ms. McGarry's world-building and story-telling skills rocked my world!
*This book was obtained via NetGalley and HarlequinTeen Publishing in exchange for my honest review. No money exchanged hands. Both the cover-art and the synopsis were obtained from Goodreads for the soul purpose of this review.