RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Kate McGarry
Publication Info: Harlequin 2012
ISBN: 9780373210497
Genre: Young Adult

Book Pushing the Limits This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Staci. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best Young Adult and Best First Book categories.

The 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.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common.

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.

And here is Staci's review:

Overall, I liked this book. It was a pretty quick read, and I found myself wanting to go back to it when I had to go do other things (cough, work, cough). Unfortunately, I have been waiting to get my hands on this book for a while now and I think I may have built it up slightly in my head, because it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it. It just didn’t blow my eardrums out of my elbows or give me much in the way of Sarah’s patented ‘Good Book Noise’.

I think the problem I have in that regard is I think it should have given me good book noise. It has everything going for it: good-but-troubled girl falls for bad-but-surprisingly-smart boy and they must prove their feelings to each other in the face of angsty teenage circumstances and the pressures of high school hierarchy. My fifteen-year-old self swoons. She needs to read this book.

BUT… I don’t know… It was good, it really was, but there were a few things that just irked me to the point that it dropped out of the A- I was originally going to give it and forced me to decide if I liked it enough to tack a ‘+’ on after that B.

As a compulsive list maker, I decided to lay out the things that I did really enjoy about the book, as well as the things that totally bugged me, and then see where I stood on that whole ‘+’  thing.

Things I Liked:

  1. The pacing of the book. This was very good. I never felt like the book dragged or got lost in itself. Often times, I end up quickly flipping through or even skipping the middle entirely. Particularly in YA stuff where I know it’s just going to be whiny, angst-ridden, self-absorbed crap. McGarry managed to pull off a fairly heavy topic without weighing the story down with a bunch of boring, useless info dumping or dithering on the part of the characters.
  2. The way the fairly heavy topic was dealt with was well done. Echo has a lot of scarring. A lot. She can’t really remember how she got them, either, and her entire school has spent the past three years assuming that she’s a cutter, a suicide failure, or some whacked out freak (I’m telling you, this book makes my high school seem soooo boring). I really appreciated that the story of how Echo got those scars and why she can’t remember was dealt with realistically (for the most part) and with the help of medical professionals.
  3. The conflict that Echo has with her step-mother, Ashley, was a really strong part of the narrative, for me. I could easily see where both characters were coming from—I got why Echo was upset about the situation and I was okay with her antagonism, but I could also see why that animosity might be misplaced. I think it reflects well on McGarry’s writing abilities that she was able to allow both characters to grow up, admit their faults, and forgive each other by the time the book was done.
  4. Noah. I really liked Noah. True, I have a soft spot for the intelligent bad boy, but Noah was particularly awesome. I don’t think any of the bad boys from my high school even knew what calculus was, let alone took the class, and I do wonder how realistic this is given his stoner habit, but it worked somehow. The thing about Noah that really hooked me was that he never fell into the macho YA stereotype of deciding to callously break up with the girl because she deserves better, but not actually discuss with said girl what she wants or desires. That always makes me want to smash my head against a wall, so luckily Noah didn’t do that (although he does make other, equally ridiculous and stupid decisions instead).
  5. There is a general understanding throughout the book, and particularly at the end, that while their feelings right now are valid and totally awesome, this may not be a forever thing. Echo and Noah do not get married right out of high school, nor do they profess their undying love for each other. Their feelings are always portrayed very realistically; they liked each other a lot, they understand and accept each other, and they want to be together.

Things I Did Not Like:

  1. The descriptive phrases were so repetitive. Like, holy friggin crap, Batman. If I had to read one more time about how Ms. Collins looked like a Golden Retriever, or an excited puppy, or that she was ‘wagging her tail in anticipation’, I think I may have had an aneurism. Overall, the writing was good, but the descriptors that were used for each character were heavy-handed, over the top, and over used. Way over used.
  2. Speaking of which, I mostly wanted to murder Echo’s ‘best friend’, Lila. As a disclaimer, I was predisposed to hate her because of bad experiences with that name, but seriously…this character was just a whole bundle of OMGWTF. She was (repetitively) described as being Glenda the Good Witch, and her most redeeming quality was that she’s pretty, sorry, that she’s the prettiest girl in school. Somebody get the girl a ribbon. To me, Lila was nothing short of a whiny, manipulative, frenemy who wanted Echo to get back with her ex so that the four of them could double date. Seriously. I am not kidding you. She’s a bitch in pastels and fudge brownies.
  3. Also, Echo bugged me. I got that she was dealing with a lot of emotional crap, but she’s supposed to be a very smart girl and she has a few too many TSTL moments for my liking. Particularly the on-going saga with her so-called friends. As far as I could tell, for three years leading up to the beginning of the book, Echo had been eating lunch in the library, alone. For Christmas, her friend Lila begs her to come back and eat with them in the cafeteria. Hello—if you were her friend, you would be in the library too!! Ugh. The whole entire thing with Lila and Grace made me want to put the book down, to be honest. I understood that Grace was supposed to be that person that you want to be friends with but who is only your friend in the right circumstances, I got that. But reading an interview with McGarry confirmed that Lila is supposed to be this awesome, loyal friend who sticks by Echo and is awesome. She is not. She is very not awesome because she is an unsupportive, pushy, manipulative bitch. Not that I have strong opinions on it, or anything.

Case in point, this book pulled me in two very different directions. I really liked Noah and I felt that his character was very well put together. Conversely, I didn’t dislike Echo, but I wanted to whack her upside the head too much to say that I liked her.

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, but I might suggest that someone new to the genre ease in with something a bit less heavy and a bit less Echo.

Final grade: B+

This book is available from: Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Liz H. says:

    Great review! I liked the lists.

    I had the same experience with this book (built it up, really liked it, but a few really annoying things pushed it down), but for somewhat different reasons.

    The descriptors were definitely annoying and repetitive, to the point where I was skipping the descriptions of any character. However, I had a completely different reaction to Lila, and to the father and stepmother resolution. I thought Lila was fairly realistic for a teenaged girl. Lila’s life didn’t change when Echo’s did, and she’s young and has no point of reference to understand and empathize with Echo’s problems. She is trying to draw Echo back into the life they lived before, believing, albeit incorrectly, that a return to “normal” is what Echo needed. Although she wasn’t perfect, her continued friendship with Echo, and standing up for her (if I’m remembering the book right), would mean a lot. (That’s not to say that I found her a particularly deep, meaningful, or kind person. Frankly, she was a bit of a twit.)

    On the other hand, my reaction to Echo’s father and stepmother was along the same lines of yours to Lila. They made my head explode a little bit, and really ruined the end of the book for me. Unlike Lila, the stepmother and father were supposed to be responsible adults that understood exactly what Echo had been through. Rather than treating her with kindness, understanding, or love, they were narcissistic, almost completely lacked empathy, and while I can understand Lila’s immature urging of Echo to return to “normal” dating and social activity, Ashley’s complete immaturity on that front was pathetic. The exploding head and ruined ending came in for me because I disagree that both characters grew up and admited their faults. I didn’t think Ashley or Echo’s father admitted to their mistakes to any significant degree, let alone apologized, while Echo was forced to formally apologize repeatedly. The lack was particularly stark when compared to the resolution between Noah and his brother’s adoptive parents, which was handled far better on both sides.

    It may be a NA/YA thing, but I dipped my toe in the NA waters again a few weeks ago, and it had a similar parent situation; moral lesson for kids that parents are usually right? (I’m an adult by more than a decade, btw.) Whatever it is, it’s enough to put me off the genre for now. Maybe I’ll try again with a book that has no parental involvement…

  2. 2
    Sam says:

    okay, long time lurker here, but I’ve got to object. This can’t be a romance book – the cover is composed entirely too well, with almost none of the usual tropes (beyond the kissing couple)!

  3. 3

    I couldn’t stand Lila either and the overly done descriptions made me put the book down more than once. It’s one of those books I want to love but end up going “meh” for instead.

  4. 4
    foleydog says:

    I think I’m too old for NA.  That said, the parents – for me – read entirely too immaturely. I wanted them to step up and be adults. And the friends? They weren’t friends. She was supposed to be smart, but couldn’t see this?  By this time in high school, I’d figured out that one has few true friends. The friends who put limits on it, or force you into situations with which you’re not comfortable – not friends.

    This book would have been better if the parents (minus the integral-to-the-story-mom) would have been ‘Charlie Brown’ absent.

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