Pushing the Limits

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4.5
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Pushing the Limits
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Did this book just made me cry at 4 in the morning? Wow, I think it did. A poignant tale about two people with a painful past who's craving for normalcy. And I think McGarry did a great job with this.

The only thing that kinda bothered be at the first few chapters was the fast attraction Echo and Noah felt for each other. No, it wasn't love and I'm glad they were able to hold it until the latter part. But the I-can't-get-you-out-of-my-head feeling seems fast after sharing a meeting or two. I expected more interactions between them before entering this denial stage to back it up but other than that, I have no problem with this story. It was great, really.

Echo and Noah were typical protagonists. They had issues they're trying to hide from the world except from those who are really close to them. There are people that they assumed were out to ruin their lives only to be proved wrong. They were madly in love but were too dumb to let each other go think it's for the best. It's pretty much cliche so maybe some of you are asking why did I like the story... Individually, they were what readers expect them to read. But together, they were brilliant. I don't know how McGarry did it but she combined two ordinary characters and formed an amazing couple you can't help but put your bets on.

The build up towards their personal struggles was good. It was placed at the right places in the story and the other parts didn't felt like they were just fillers. Although their interaction with other people except Mrs. Collins weren't that much, other minor characters were still significant and wasn't just like those who were there to make the scene right. They needed to be there to make everything perfect and they were involved.

I wish we had the chance to meet Aires though. I'm pretty sure everyone would love him. I wish other characters especially Luke and Grace were also given more depth. I really want to know more about Grace's bitch attitude because sometimes, I think she cares.

The change in POVs were also great and gave us a chance to know more each character. I really love to see the difference on how both POVs were written and I personally love Noah's.

I'm sure Echo and Noah will get under your skin as soon as you start reading this. Just be prepared to feel the emotions McGarry made her characters felt as well as her readers.
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Pushing the Limits
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
Let me be clear: I honestly hate reading Contemporary/Chick-Lit novels, I do. I don't like the real world, so I drown in paranormal because it's another world: vampires, ghosts, magic, wizards and witches, giants, etc. I usually stay away from genres like this due to the fact that it's realistic-fiction. Do you understand what I'm trying to say? So I didn't have high hopes for this despite the average user rating... I'm so glad I was proved wrong. Pushing the Limits was amazing.

Have you ever had that controlling parent telling you how to live your life when you desperately want to live it your way, but you're afraid of disappointing them so you reluctantly do what you're told? Have you ever been through a horrible situation in that past that's affected your memory to this day and you can't remember what happened though you're clawing at it -- trying to remember? You're not alone. Echo Emerson is going through that situation. To add on to this stressful matter, she has scars -- scars that sends whispers around the school, scars that makes her seem as though she's crazy. They think she did that herself, but they don't know the story... It was done to her and she's trying to remember. She feels alone and unloved, and that's when our knight in shining armour, Noah Hutchins, enters the story.

Noah can related to Echo. He lost his parents and he's fighting for custody over his little brothers. He feels they're the only thing he has in the world and without them, he's alone. But how can he approach Echo Emerson? He's the boys your dad tells you to stay away from, he's the stoner that uses girls for a night and leaves.... I just love Pushing the Limits, though it's the bad boy falls in love with good girl premise, I still enjoyed it. Our main characters are broken and shattered; when they're together, they become one (oh god, that was cheesy, *shakes... my... head*).

I loved both Noah and Echo, not together, but as two separate people. They both have these different personality traits that I just loved. Though Beth and Isaiah (Noah's best friends/foster siblings) had very small rolls to play in this book, I'm definitely interested in reading their story. I really liked them and how much they were down for Noah. I really recommend Pushing the Limits, that is, if you're tired of the whole bad-boy-falls-in-love-with-good-girl cliched premise, then I'm sorry to say this book isn't for you.
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Pushing the Limits
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Pushing the Limits is one of those books that was receiving a lot of hype, and that made me a little reluctant to read it. However, I love “issue” books and I’ve really been enjoying the more mature YA books coming out, so I gave it a try. I’m really glad that I did! It’s an extremely heavy read, but it pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down.

Echo is an amazingly multi-dimensional character. Even though I can’t relate to her struggles, I did find myself completely invested in her story. She’s utterly broken, but she is trying to put herself back together and return to “normal.” She’s gone through something outrageously horrific, but can’t remember a moment of it. The events of that day are slowly revealed as Echo meets with a therapist, but if only she can get her hands on her file to speed up the process.

Noah is fiercely loyal, but to a fault. Yes, it’s possible to love someone too much, if it blinds you to everything else around you. He just wants his little brothers back after the foster care system separated them. He’s seeing the same therapist as Echo, and wants to see his file to find out more about his brothers’ foster parents. Of course, this forces them to work together, and their relationship develops into something so much more.

Even though their stories are tough, I really enjoyed getting to know Echo and Noah. Their pasts are heartbreaking, and I really wanted them to find some peace and happiness. Thankfully, they find each other. Their relationship isn’t easy, since they both have their own personal issues to work through, and high school is an unforgiving place. I was expecting more romance though. The focus is mainly on their emotional baggage with their families, but that’s okay. I just would have liked more steaminess!

This was a very emotional and enjoyable read. I’m definitely glad that I have it a chance, and didn’t let the hype scare me off. It was a little on the long side and some scenes seemed to drag the pacing down a bit, but it still kept me engaged from page one.
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Deals with serious topics, but doesn't dwell on them! YA Contemp done right!
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Pushing the Limits is told in first person point-of-view alternating between our heroine, Echo Emerson, and our hero, Noah Hutchins. Echo used to be one of the “it” girls; she had it all: popularity, jock boyfriend, and good looks. Literally overnight, everything changes for her. She’s now on the outside looking in, and the worst part is she doesn’t even have the memory to go with the evening that turned her life upside down, only horrendous scars on her arms that become the purpose of everyone’s gossip and label her a “freak.” Somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind is the secret to what happened that night, and Echo will do anything to uncover the mystery.

As an observer, Noah Hutchins appears to be your stereotypical girl-using badboy who partakes in alcohol and drugs to cover up the truths he wants to bury himself in. However, in actuality, he’s the good guy that makes bad decisions based on the hard path he’s been set on. His parents were killed in a fire that he feels partly responsible for and that led to him being placed in the foster care system. Knowing firsthand that the system used to protect you isn’t safe at all, he’ll stop at nothing to get his two younger brothers back into his custody after graduation.

Our two main characters know of each other, but they don’t really know one another at all. Being that they were never a part of the same social circle, they both had preconceived notions about the other, but it doesn’t take long for them to form new ideas. Now with them both seeing the same counselor at school, they’re pushed together in every way possible, making it hard to ignore the growing attraction between them. In the end though, they’re both driven by their ultimate goals and hatch a plan to aid each other in obtaining the information they need most to get their lives back on course.

Personally, I believe Katie McGarry delivered a masterful tale of former popular chick meets brooding, girl-using bad boy. There were so many opportunities for the author to give in to this clichéd, overused and often predictable plot device, but it seemed almost reinvented in this novel. She allowed each of the characters to speak for themselves, interweaving the dual POV’s flawlessly, and allowing us to enter the head-space of these emotionally driven teenagers. Not only did she do this seamlessly, but each character and their narration felt authentic. Echo was presented as this broken girl just searching for a sense of normal in a sea of uncertainty. Like most teenagers, she wanted the acceptance of her peers, but most importantly, the love of her father. Noah often came across as crude, but to me, I felt like I was reading exactly how a real guy would think, not how a girl- the author- thinks a guy would think. This made his character more believable, and I appreciated that aspect. But it was the layers that you discovered in each character along the way that made them so multi-faceted for me. Being able to experience their growth throughout the story as they transformed into young adults made this an even better read.
Though the relationship seemed to progress relatively quick, how they interacted with one another never came across as contrived.

Plus, their chemistry was amazing, and I savored each delicious scene they had together. The closer they got to one another, the more I rooted for them and crossed my fingers for steamier scenes because… well, yummmm….

McGarry has an undeniable way of drawing you in to this heart-wrenching tale, and I experienced the full range of emotions throughout this roller coaster ride of a book because of the extremely raw and grittiness of the story-line. It deals with several deep issues that broke my heart while infusing it with hope all at once. With every page, she managed to pull me further and further into this world and held me captive with her realistic- and often tough- approach to the struggles and harsh realities presented throughout, making my heart ache with each painful dip. The pacing of the story flowed easily and the secrets were revealed at all the right times. In the end, all the pieces clicked together like the perfect puzzle and you truly grasped why every character had behaved the way he/she did.

Verdict: I think everyone should read this story. Even though it deals with harsher topics, it’s doesn’t dwell on them. And make no mistake about it, this is definitely a kissing book. Lots of really, really great kissing in here. There was several times that I laughed out loud, and all the secondary characters are great all on their own. Well, actually, I take that back. Most are great, her dad, step-mom, and former best friend are horrible, infuriating people.

**Note** An e-ARC of this title was provided by HarlequinTEEN via Net Galley, but did not influence this review in any way.
Good Points
Great character development and excellent kissing scenes!
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Parents Watch Your Back!
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
You know the Disney parent curse: If you are the mom or dad of the main hero/heroine you’re in trouble. One or more of you is going to die or is already dead. I’m looking at "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Finding Nemo," "The Emperor’s New Groove," "Tarzan," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That Disney graveyard is full!

I’ve noticed recently that the Disney parent curse is seeping its way into young adult contemporary romance novels. I just finished Katie McGarry’s "Pushing the Limits" and let me tell you: dead parents.

Now, of COURSE I don’t want anyone’s parents to die whether fictional or real, but this theme really works in "Pushing." It immediately makes you sympathize with tough guy/heartthrob Noah who feels he must now be the caretaker of his two younger brothers. The problem? He’s separated from them due to his socking his first foster father in the face, leading Noah to get just-barely-there visitation rights.

Then we’ve got Echo. Sure, her parents are technically alive, but they are so distant/emotionally and psychologically wrecked that they may as well be dead. The whole book focuses on Echo’s interactions with Noah as she tries to figure out a horrible moment of betrayal from her mother that she has absolutely no memory of. The only reason she knows anything happened at all is that there are gruesome scars running up and down her arms.

Now imagine if this story had parents. First of all, Noah would be fine. He’d just be a regular ol’ teen with a loving family and no real obstacles to overcome. If Echo’s parents were loving and attentive she wouldn’t have lost her memory in the first place. McGarry does a great job of portraying how crucial the love and guidance of parents is by making said parents absent. For example of another Disney parent curse in contemporary YA romance, check out "The Beginning of After" by Jennifer Castle. If this curse keeps spreading I may second-guess ever becoming a parent.
Good Points
Unique backstory for both main characters.
Sheds a light on bipolar disorder.
Great writing that almost left me in tears (in a good way).
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Occasionally Cheesy; Always Entertaining
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Pushing the Limits is another one of those books that has been hyped like whoa. Odds are you've heard of it, and you've seen rave reviews full of swooning and OMGs. Having finished, I can tell you that these responses are entirely valid and deserved. While not a completely perfect novel, I simply adored it from beginning to end and know that I will definitely be making friends read it and rereading it myself through the years.

On a very simple level, Pushing the Limits could be dismissed as a romance about a popular, well-behaved girl and the foster kid bad boy against all odds and the opinions of classmates. However, that would ignore all of the things that make this novel exceptional. Their family issues and scars make Echo and Noah much more interesting characters and makes their relationship so much sweeter.

Echo's name is a bit ridiculous, a flight of fancy by an artistic mother obsessed with Greek mythology. Her name comes from a Greek myth in which the jealous Hera curses a pretty nymph with the inability to do anything but repeat the words of others, eventually fading into just an echo as we know it. This name suits Echo perfectly. She says and does what others want her to, especially her controlling father. Echo has classic daddy issues and does what he says to keep him happy: she joins the right clubs, dates the guy he approves of, and gives up her passion for art in exchange for business because he thought that was better.

Echo used to have the perfect, middle class life, except for her manic depressive mother. Pretty, popular and dating one of the coolest guys in school, Echo had friends, good grades and serious artistic talent. Her life fell completely to pieces after her beloved brother, Aires, who joined the marines, dies. At the beginning of Pushing the Limits, Echo is mentally and physically scarred, gossiped about constantly and abandoned by one of her best friends, Grace. Although her relationship with Grace was a fairly minor plot point, I think it added a lot of validity to Echo's high school experience.

[I want to sidebar for a moment here and talk about the names. Echo and Aires, we're told, were both named for Greek mythology. However, I'm confused by the name 'Aires.' I've never heard of an Aires in Greek mythology. Did the mom or dad just misspell Ares or Aries? Do they pronounce it 'airs' or 'air-ease'? The super reliable source BabyNamesPedia informs me that Aires is a derivative of Ayers, which means heir. It just...doesn't seem right to me. Anyone able to explain this?]

Echo is forced into yet more therapy with a guidance counselor/social worker at school, as part of which she will tutor Noah, who needs to get his grades up. This way she can earn money to fix up her brother's '65 Vette. Noah, like Echo, is mentally and physically scarred. His parents perished in a tragic house fire, leaving him to the 'mercies' of the foster care system. Even worse, he is kept separate from his younger brothers, Jacob and Tyler, after he punches his first stepfather, unable to watch the man abuse his own son anymore.

Noah is, on the surface, the typical bad boy. He smokes pot, skips class, has tattoos, has one night stands with whatever girls he can get his hands on, and gets into fights. He's also sexy as hell and incredibly smart. Echo and Noah do not get along at first. Well, actually, he was totally willing to get *ahem* on board the Echo train at any point, but she hated his attitude and the rude things he said to her. Only as he came to know her back story and to realize that Echo is not the spoiled brat he took her for, does Noah really begin to care for. The same goes for Echo, as she learns that Noah has a reason for being the way he is.

I rooted for them wholeheartedly and definitely felt the pterodactyl butterflies alongside Echo at several points. Echo and Noah fit each other perfectly, able to understand one another's pain and emotions better than anyone else could. Noah is even so awesome that he was able to use the phrase 'make love' and make it sound sexy as hell, rather than contrived and disgustingly sappy. However, my main issue with the book was also bound up in this. They definitely ventured a bit too far into the melodrama at times, and there were some phrases that made me roll my eyes heartily, like this one: "Noah didn't walk, he stalked and I loved the mischievous glint in his eye when he stalked me." Yikes. I know what McGarry is trying to do there, but I'm really creeped out by any romantic reference to stalking; it's not stalking if you WANT him following you and he's not going to hurt you. Plus, I really hate the term of endearment 'baby' and Noah says it CONSTANTLY. Why couldn't he just call her Siren? I thought that one was cute.

McGarry's storytelling works perfectly. Told alternatingly from the perspectives of Echo and Noah, the story is much stronger than I think it would have been in third person or from just one perspective. Had I not had a view into his head, I am pretty sure I would have hated Noah for half the book, with his rude comments and behavior. Being able to see the thoughts behind his actions was immensely helpful. This also helped overcome some of the cheesily romantic dialog, because you then would get a view of the character thinking 'what did I just do?' and mentally facepalming.

This is already an exceedingly long review or I would discuss the other characters, who I though were also very well developed, although I would have liked to know a bit more about Beth, Isaiah, and Lila. Noah and Echo definitely have some serious navel gazing and tunnel vision going on. This is believable given the circumstances, but limits the reader's access to the other interesting characters. Mrs. Collins, the counselor, stole the show just a bit. She was hilarious and awesome. I loved how laid back yet capable she was. My only question about that is whether she really would have been able to drive a student around so often; it seems like she would need a permission slip or something for that, but maybe being a social worker gives her special rights.

I highly recommend Pushing the Limits to anyone who likes darker contemporaries. I also have to mention that this novel is a perfect readalike for fellow Apocalypsie novel Something Like Normal; these novels are clearly best friends, just like Travis and Aires totally would have been.
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Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
(Updated: September 29, 2012)
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
-
HS
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heart-wrenching and hopeful
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
I wasn’t too interested in Pushing the Limits, one I don’t read much contemporary fiction and two the cover kind of screams romance but I got the ARC at BEA and so much people who had read advanced copies were giving Pushing the Limits positives reviews, including one of my favourite authors so I decided to give it a shot. This novel is so much more than a romance.

Told from alternating points of view Pushing the Limits is about Echo, who ever since an attack she can’t remember that left her arm permanently scarred is trying not only to remember what happened to her so she can move on but is also trying to deal with the grief of losing her brother Aires who died overseas on deployment. It’s about Noah, who after a fire kills his parents has been shipped from one foster home to another and only wants to be reunited with his little brothers again. It’s about two people struggling with overwhelming issues trying to find hope and happiness.

Pushing the Limits was both a deep and compelling read that had me glued to the pages and desperate to find out how the story ends. Katie McGarry knows how to create realistic characters and she knows how to get me to care about them. Both Noah and Echo are the reasons I did not want to put this book down, not only did I want to find out how their individual stories pan out but I wanted to see their relationship through and to find out what would become of it. Echo is a girl who was betrayed be someone she should have been able to trust above everyone else and because of the aftermath she hides herself from the world and has become a shadow of her former self. Noah is the result of the failings of the Foster Care system, there is barely anyone he will trust and he is both hurt and angry. It took me a while to like Noah; I could sympathize with him sure but because of his reputation for doing drugs and sleeping around with girls it wasn’t until about one hundred pages in that I started liking him as a character but I eventually did and in the end he was the character that had me crying and wanting to comfort.

Pushing the Limits is not a fluffy light read but nor will it bog you down and fill you with angst. Pushing the Limits is both real and hopeful and a stand out début.
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