Title: Pushing the Limits
Series: Pushing the Limits (Book #1)
Author: Katie McGarry
Summary: 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.
Review: What. I mean, looking at the cover and reading the summary, you definitely wouldn’t expect me of all people to fall in love with it. And sometimes, when I think about it, I can point out a lot of things that were wrong or that I didn’t like, but at the end of it all, I didn’t really care. I devoted my entire day, from three in the afternoon to three in the morning, to reading this book. If you look at my status updates on GoodReads, none of them were encouraging or really all that positive; but for some reason, I hit a certain point where I couldn’t stop reading long enough to update and say that I had totally changed my mind and loved this dang thing. Sure, I hated the perspective of the best friends towards Echo’s situation and that really bothered me, but I really fell in love with Noah’s story, and once that roped me in, everything else just fell into place.
I’ll try not to make this a screaming fangirl type review, because I recognize this book did have faults, but at a certain point, I stopped caring about the faults because McGarry created a story and characters that I really came to love.
An ARC of this was provided by my supervisor at the library.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- I think Noah was the main reason I loved this book. The story about being separated from his brothers and being labeled as emotionally unstable because he protected another kid from his father’s beating is just…really heartbreaking. I can’t imagine ever being separated from my older brothers and only being allowed to see them on a visitation/once a month basis. He works so hard to do what’s best for his brothers, and the way he’s terrified they’ll get screwed over by the system like he has comes through in the writing. It was this dynamic, more than anything–even more than the relationship between Noah and Echo–that really got to me. When Noah sees his brothers and has that conversation with Joe and Carrie, I just lost it. I burst into tears because it just…it was powerful. Family relationships like that are always the strongest dynamic to me, and I think McGarry really hit the nail on the head with this one.
- On that note, you all should know that I’m a total romantic. Heart-clenching, butterflies-in-my-stomach type of romantic, and even though it might not be “modern”, I swoon for a story where a guy learns to take care of and protect the girl he loves. (Which is one of the reasons I loved The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer so much.) Noah admits early on that there’s something about Echo he really likes, and even though this admission was pretty early, it took a long time for it to really develop into what it became. It wasn’t insta-love necessarily, and the relationship they had (though it started out mostly physical at first) really blossomed into something that I was rooting for; one of the reasons I couldn’t stop reading was because I wanted more of them. I appreciated that they didn’t suddenly get together in the last few pages of the book, and that there was still a lot of time left before the end. Watching their relationship grow while they’re in a relationship isn’t something a lot of young adult books have; it’s like they’re apart and then suddenly, neither one can take it anymore and they get together and they’re already in love. It didn’t feel that way with Noah and Echo, and I appreciated that. Noah and Echo easily make my top ten of favorite book relationships.
- This wasn’t nearly as powerful, but I still enjoyed Echo’s journey, too. It would be difficult to have your mother try to kill you and deal with the feelings of not being able to remember, and still loving your mother regardless–on top of having a new stepmother and your brother dying. I liked getting to know Echo and watching her try to remember what had happened and confronting her mother. At the same time, she tried to juggle the rumors about her and attempted to keep her closest friends. I felt bad for her, and I felt for her, although she didn’t exactly wow me the same way Noah did.
What I Didn’t Like:
- There was just a bit too much cursing for my taste. In fact, some of the inner monologue was awkward too. Whenever Echo narrated “Come freaking on” I wanted to roll my eyes, because it just doesn’t feel natural in any way. I thought it was funny how Echo pointed out that Noah cursed quite a bit when he didn’t need to, and while I appreciated that more near the end of the book, Noah and his language had matured quite a bit, the beginning shocked me with the frequency of the heavy language. Noah is rough and tough, great–but I didn’t feel like all that was necessary.
- I hated the way Echo’s friends treated the situation. Lila explains that Echo should just tell everyone the scars are from her mother, and that it’s not like if she was actually a cutter. This gives the impression that if she was a cutter, everyone would have a reason to stare and be rude and call her a freak. Later, Noah wonders why Echo doesn’t tell people the truth, and thinks, “What could be worse than being called a cutter?” They all give the impression that if you’re a victim of someone else and they’ve hurt you, it’s not your fault; but if you’re depressed and descend into something like self-harm, you really are a freak who deserved to be stared at and talked about. McGarry did not handle the issue of self-harm in a gentle way, but further alienated those who are cutters–essentially saying that their classmates will never understand or be sympathetic, but blame you for bringing this on yourself. And that is the last thing that should be told to a cutter. Blaming yourself leads to more self-hate, which leads to more self-harm. It’s astounding that so few people seem to have made that connection by now, and I just honestly hated every single side character in this book (except maybe for Noah’s brothers, and Carrie and Joe).
Overall: I really, really enjoyed this book. Be forewarned, the cursing was heavy and it was really insensitive to depression and self-harm, but the family dynamic in Noah’s story, but the relationship between Noah and Echo was astounding. McGarry excelled in a lot of aspects of this story, even if it wasn’t exactly perfect; but at a certain point, you don’t care about the imperfections and you get lost in the story. (Plus, it had surprisingly no actual sex for a book that I thought would have a lot of it, hahah.) I would recommend it to a lot of people, as long as you’re alright with the two things I mentioned that bothered me, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from McGarry in the future. This is a great debut novel, and I expect her to do even better in the future!