Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

* * * * 1/2

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

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
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.

When I read the summary for Pushing the Limits, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy it but at the same time I still kind of expected an enjoyable but throw away romance.  How surprised was I to read what is so far one of my favorites books of 2012?  For me, Pushing the Limits rivaled If I Stay and Where She Went minus the incessant crying.  Oh there were some tears but McGarry was nice enough to give me long breaks between heartbreaking and soul crushing scenes. I can’t thank her enough for that.   

Noah and Echo are two teens that have been dealt horrible experiences in life.  Their experiences have forced them to grow up before they are ready and have destroyed their trust in the people around them.  Particularly the adults in their life.  And can you blame them?   After losing his parents and being put into a less than ideal first foster home, Noah has been mislabeled as dangerous and has been separated from his younger brothers.  The foster care system – run by adults – has done nothing to earn his trust or respect. 

Echo has been told that her mom hurt her but she has no memory of it.  Not that she doesn’t believe it.  She has the physical and mental scars after all.  But her father (or anyone else for that matter) won’t tell her what happened.  On top of that she is still dealing with the death of her brother, her parents divorce and her new step-mom.  Yeah, Echo has a lot of trust issues too. 

Enter Mrs. Collins, a counselor that is part of a new program that provides school counseling to kids that are part of child services and dealing with major issues.  Echo and Noah definitely fit into this category and both are “forced” to meet with Mrs. Collins.  Mrs. Collins ends up being a guardian angel type of character.  She uses patience and tenacity to help these two teens find the things they need to move on in their lives and make the hard decisions that they were incapable of making before.   

What I loved most about this book was the reality of it all.  Every single character in this book is imperfectly human.  Even Mrs. Collins, the “guardian angel”, has her faults.  Many of the characters that you think are being unfair might actually be acting out of fear and/or love.  And that human imperfection makes its way into the romance in this story.  This is not an instant romance.  Noah and Echo don’t look at each other the first time and see stars and hear music.  They know of each other’s existence but run in completely different crowds.  Their first official meeting outside the counselor’s office is wonderfully adolescent and doesn’t necessarily give you hope for the rest of their relationship.  But it does show you that even though they have been forced to grow up in some ways they are still very young.   

Noah’s point of view:

Like always, she stared straight ahead as if I didn’t exist.  Hell, I probably didn’t exist in her mind.  People like Echo Emerson irritated the crap out of me. 

“You’ve got a fucked-up name.” I mumbled.  I didn’t know why I wanted to rattle her, I just did.

“Shouldn’t you be getting high in the bathroom?” 

So she did know me.  “They installed security cameras.  We do it in the parking lot now.” 

“My bad.”  Her foot rocked frantically back and forth. 

Good, I’d succeeded in getting under that perfect fa├žade. “Echo…echo…echo…” 

Her foot stopped rocking and red curls bounced furiously as she turned to face me. “How original.  I’ve never heard that before.”  She swept up her backpack and left the office.  Her tight ass swayed side to side as she marched down the hallway.  That wasn’t nearly as fun as I’d thought it would be.  In fact, I kind of felt like a dick.

That scene gives a perfect representation of Noah and Echo’s personalities.  He is the bad boy troublemaker with a conscience that still peeks through every once in a while.  Echo is nervous and scared but still has a snarky tenacious attitude that helps her get by day to day. 

You know, I could go on and on about this book so I will just stop now. 

Pushing the Limits provides the perfect amount of romance and angst and heartbreak and hope.  This is hands down my favorite YA read so far this year.   This book is in bookstores today.  I highly recommend you go out and buy a copy.   You won’t be disappointed. 



  1. Great review!! I just finished reading an interview with the author and she seems like a down-to-earth, reality TV watching, fun mom of three. I'm glad you shared Noah's point of view. There's such a nice flow to just that little bit. Can't wait to read this, especially since it's one of your favorite reads of the year!
    -Jenna @ Fans of Fiction

  2. Hi Jenna - Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This one really did blow me away :-)