Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Released: July 31st 2012
Pages: 397 (Kindle)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
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.
I'm teetering on the edge with this review, as I can't decide which rating to give it! Admittedly, I read the blurb and wasn't wowed by the concept of it - it was just another contemporary novel to me. However, the entirety of Book World seemed to go crazy about it, and five star reviews were being thrown all over the place - so, being the sheep that I am, I decided to jump at the chance to review it. Now, I completely understand the hype.
I honestly don't know where to start! From the synopsis, the story seems very cliched - tormented girl with a big secret finds solace in the dark and broody hero who has secrets of his own. And I suppose, if you get down to the base of it, then that is what the story is about. But as you begin to read it and start to peel back the layers, the realization strikes you that this is a book that actually deals with serious topics - mental illness, death, suicide, murder, drug abuse, sex, becoming orphaned...I feel like the synopsis doesn't give the proper image of the novel, and makes it less appealing. However, that's just my opinion.
I felt that the plot was fantastic. Whilst quite dramatic, I felt that McGarry still kept it realistic, which helped me to be able to relate to not just the characters, but also the story. If she'd overdone it, readers would not be able to grasp how much of a lifeline Noah and Echo were to one another, and would therefore not be able to understand half of the significance of the story. The message I thought she was trying to put across was that even in the darkest of times, there is always someone there to pull you out of it, however unlikely; you've just got to be willing to let them. It was a story about falling in love, and for once, the romance aspect of it didn't make me want to shudder. Quite the opposite, actually - it made me want to embrace it, and I genuinely felt the character's emotions through my Kindle, which was incredibly powerful.
The characters were excellent. As soon as I saw Echo's name, I thought this would be a novel where the author picked a whacky name for a "super awesome" (this is sarcasm) character who is obsessed with her looks and is obviously gawjuss. Thankfully, this wasn't the idea at all - in fact, Echo's name had a lot of backstory to it, and her character was grounded and strong. At the beginning, I hated how submissive she was to her father, and how she wanted to please everyone at every twist and turn - however, now that I've finished the book, I can see the significance of those first few chapters. McGarry created a main character that girl's of all ages would be able to relate to in some way, no matter how tiny - and I felt like I could definitely sympathize with her, and my heart honestly went out to the girl. Fictitious or not, there are people out there who deal with things like Echo, and I thought the author has created a definitely eye-opening novel.
The other main protagonist Noah Hutchins, was also pretty fantastic. Reading the synopsis, I couldn't help but roll my eyes - he was going to be the typical bad-boy-loser-freak-loner-whatever who Echo would fall head-over-heels for, even though, as the strong and sexy heroine of the story, she would try to deny her feelings. Well, I was proved wrong by this book, yet again. Noah had depth - depth that myself as the reader couldn't see to begin with, but at the end my sympathy for him stretched out into infinity. As a child, I loved The Story of Tracy Beaker, and so I kind of know what happens in and around foster care, and I know that it isn't always that great. Not a lot of authors I've come across really delve into the harsh reality of the care system, and so it was again a bit of an eye-opener - not just for me, but for many others, I'm sure. Yes he was hot and drool-worthy, but there was a lot more to his character, which was nice to see.
McGarry's writing was easy to read, and I found myself being able to slip back into the story as soon as I picked the book back up. She did a good job at changing her tone from one character to the next, as I find that in some books from several different points of view, the characters tend to just blend together in the end. This wasn't the case - Noah chapters and Echo chapters were easily distinguishable, as their personalities, genders, and background came out through her writing. That's a talent that's hard to pick up, and for McGarry to do that for her debut novel...well, I'm impressed.
I think I've finally decided on the rating I will give this book. The emotion was so raw throughout the read, that on occasions I found myself unable to stop crying. Some scenes were really heartbreaking, and it just made my heart go out to all the kids out there who have to deal with situations like this on a day-to-day basis. If you love realistic and contemporary fiction, this is definitely a novel you have to pick up. However, for me there was just something missing - though what that is, I have no idea. What I do know is that although I loved that read, I still haven't added Dare You To, the next installment to this series, onto my TBR list just yet.