Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Published: July 31st 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Source: local library
Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.
My thoughts: For me, Pushing the Limits was drama overload. I picked this up because a parent asked me in the library about the content, and while the cover indicated there’s a heavy romance plot, I couldn’t tell them much about it, so I decided to read it even though it wasn’t something I’d typically choose myself.
I can get down with some troubled characters who have real problems, but when a writer throws too many into the mix, it can be overwhelming. Echo is not only dealing with memory loss and shame and embarrassment from scars on her arms, she’s also got a brother who died during war, a controlling father, and a stepmother she hates.
Noah’s live is equally complicated. His parents died in a house fire, so he’s in foster care. But because he was initially placed with an abusive family and tried to defend another child in the home, he was labeled violent and is now unable to visit his younger siblings he heroically saved from the fire.
So, when McGarry throws in the good girl attracted to the bad boy (who actually has a heart of gold despite the leather jacket) plot, which is the main focus of the story, there isn’t enough space to fully develop any of the other issues going on in the main characters’ lives.
This was perhaps the most unbelievable contemporary YA that I’ve read in recent memory. Why I realize that child and family services vary greatly by state, I still found the therapist in the school completely unbelievable. School psychologists and social workers typically do not handle the kind of therapy that Echo and Noah need and receive.
The therapist pulls a tutoring job out of thin air to help Echo earn money, which simply wouldn’t happen in a public school. Tutoring is a volunteer gig. There isn’t funding for that kind of thing. If it was a real job, there would be an application process, an interview, etc. This convenient plot device served to get the two troubled teens together. There could have been any number of situations contrived to bring them together that would have been a lot more believable.
I also understand that some foster homes are terrible places, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Noah’s experiences are atypical and there’s no way that he would remain in his current placement given the deplorable circumstances (three teenagers sharing a dirty mattress in a basement).
When Echo said her plan was to skip college and travel around the country from art gallery to art gallery selling her paintings, I laughed out loud at how ridiculously naive the idea was. My best friend is a professional musician and painter, and manages to support himself entirely through his art, but it took him years of hard work, networking, and self-promotion to even begin to get ahead or break even. No matter how talented Echo is, there’s a miniscule chance that it would ever work out for a teen.
Noah’s internal monologue was in no way believable as a teenage boy. It was irritating and had me rolling my eyes on nearly every page. Echo was a frustrating character, and as much as I tried to cut her some slack, her actions don’t make sense, even in her own head.
The supporting characters had no dimension. Everyone was the epitome of a common stereotype. Luke, Echo’s ex, is a jock-jerk boyfriend who only wanted her for sex. Her dad is overbearing. Her stepmother is the stupid blonde bimbo who broke up her parents’ marriage. Echo’s friends are all fake popular girls who aren’t at all sympathetic to her life experiences. None of the characters have any depth or any reason to be in the story aside from the plot function. You aren’t prompted to care about any of them as individuals.
There is chemistry between Noah and Echo, and I imagine that is the main draw for most readers, especially those who rave about this book. There’s a lot of lust that develops into love, and that aspect of the book was believable and compelling. While many readers will happily race through this quick, fast-paced read, it isn’t a favorite of mine.
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: “It’s just that what had a lot of potential fell flat for me. Fans of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry series will love the swoony romance and amped up drama. Because I read YA pretty widely I’ve just seen this sort of dramatic romance done far more effectively (such as in Going Too Far and Such a Rush or even in My Life Next Door), which resulted in my never being particularly emotionally invested in the story.”
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: “On the whole, this book was good and I will probably go back to it again. However, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who doesn’t like or has not read YA romance before. I would definitely recommend it to a number of people I know.”
Cuddlebuggery: “Very rarely does a book make me laugh and cry at all – let alone multiple times. But that’s what this book did.”