01 October 2012

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

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.
Pushing the Limits had the blogosphere foaming at the mouth before it even hit shelves.  Normally, I steer clear of books like this -- the ones that explode so drastically that it makes me just a little bit suspicious.  (No, seriously, Twilight anyone?)  I bought Pushing the Limits after reading the first two pages in Barnes & Noble.  No book can be that good, right?

Wrong.  So wrong.  Pushing the Limits totally deserves the hype.  It was amazing from start to finish.  I was delightfully surprised by the depth and clarity of each main character, and by the stakes they faced. I was never once pulled out of the story by insincere or sloppy writing.  Everything about it makes me conclude, This is how a good book is supposed to be written.

Besides the dynamic main characters, my favorite thing about Pushing the Limits was the writing style: McGarry didn't preach anything.  Information came out naturally, because the circumstances required it.  There was none of this boring the reader with paragraphs of explanation.  McGarry shaved away all the excess writing baggage that has become the staple of young adult literature.  Each sentence brought the respective character more and more to life, adding depth and clarity instead of adding mindless prose to equate to a whole lot of nothing.

McGarry didn't shortchange the characters, which made my emotional connection with them stronger.  Echo and Noah were independent, but inextricably linked -- the more they learned about each other, the more they learned about themselves, and I think that's what makes their romance so great.  (Of course, some blush-worthy make out scenes certainly help a great deal.)  I'd predicted that Echo was going to be whiny, but I was wrong.  I was impressed with McGarry's ability to build motivations and thought processes into the character's prose so that every triumph and complaint is justified.  This aspect really made the characters pop off the page for me.

Pushing the Limits has the revolutionary feel of a book that sets new standards.  McGarry took two issues that are very real, relevant things in today's society, and brought them out of their dusty corners, showcasing them in a way that made them easier to approach, and to understand.  Katie McGarry set out to do something:
I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves... Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing overwhelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.
McGarry's passion shines through the prose; her cleverness, through the playful, witty banter between her two main characters.  Pushing the Limits is the physical manifestation of stark honesty and brilliance.  Katie McGarry certainly put herself on the map with this one, and I think she's going places.

My heart pounded in tune with thrash metal.  We'd read about sirens in English this fall; Greek mythology bullshit about women so beautiful, their voices so enchanting, that men did anything for them.  Turned out that mythology crap was real because every time I saw her, I lost my mind. (p. 80)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 384
  • published - July 2012
  • publisher - Harlequin Teen
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - Barnes & Noble
  • rating - 5/5