Drama Overload: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry pushingthelimits

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.

Second opinions:

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.”


7 thoughts on “Drama Overload: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

  1. It sounds like too much is going on in this book like you said. It also sounds unbelievable. If only you could get paid to tutor, I would’ve made a lot more money in high school and college. Alas, like you said, you almost always do it in volunteer capacity. Unless, in college, you’re part of the writing center.

  2. Thank you for writing this review, Molly. Seriously. First of all, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only YA book blogger who just didn’t see the appeal of this book. I haven’t read it because I’m just not into romance-heavy storylines, and even as the many super positive reviews came out, I hesitated. I’m glad I did, because I’m sure that all of the issues you brought up would have bothered me as well. I love how honest your review is, and how you pointed out specifically what didn’t work.

    1. You’re welcome! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I used to not review books I didn’t like, but I’ve come to understand it’s okay if people have different opinions. No book is a hit for anyone, and I like hearing different perspectices.

  3. I had so many issues with the details of this novel–which you’ve pointed out. The tutoring, the weird stuff with the counselor, Echo’s plans to sell her art, etc etc. I can accept a certain amount of embellishment, but it was ridiculous in this book. I understand why people like this book, but it makes me crazy that it’s seemingly always mentioned as such a fabulous YA romance, while other, highly quality YA romances are overlooked.

    1. When I re-read your review I knew we had similar feelings toward this book, and chatting with you on twitter made me realize I wasn’t totally crazy in not liking it. I do understand the appeal, and I can sometimes lose myself in that drama-romance, but these specific issues weren’t things I could overlook. I know what you mean about other YA romances being overlooked…I’m like, WHAT ABOUT GRAFFITI MOON, PEOPLE?!

  4. Haha I kind of loved your review. I guess when I read it, I wasn’t as put off because I was somewhat sucked into the book, but after I finished, I was like, “EH I don’t get what everyone is in love with.”
    Echo bothered me. She was naïve and I didn’t like her voice in the book, but I actually did like Noah. I think I like the trope of “everyone thinks I’m a bad guy but I have a heart of gold”. HOWEVER. I hated certain parts of his voice (Baby? Siren? NYMPH? Ew, no).
    I guess I hadn’t realized exactly how many issues there were in this book! I love that I get to see that side of it from your review but I’m almost mad at myself for not seeing it while I was reading. How could I not have noticed that!? It makes so much sense now! I guess I just get lost in the story sometimes! :)

    1. I am often seduced by bad boys with hearts of gold, so I get it. I’m with you on the baby/siren thing…what teenage guy talks like that? I didn’t really even dislike Noah, just had a hard time buying his character. I don’t think you should be “mad” at yourself for not seeing the issues when you read. I totally understand getting wrapped up in a story and liking it despite its flaws (and it has happened to me MANY times). This one just didn’t sweep me off my feet. I totally understand how it could work for others, though.

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