Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Book Review: Pushing the Limits by: Katie McGarry
My Review: Have I died and gone to heaven? That's sure what it feels like after reading Katie McGarry's debut novel Pushing the Limits. The book's premise sounded exactly like something I would enjoy, after all, I love misunderstood bad boys and the good girls that grow to love them. Let's face it, not every author is good at writing bad boys, unless you're NY Times best selling author Simone Elkeles, writer of the sizzling hot Perfect Chemistry series. So you can imagine my hesitance going into Pushing the Limits.
Pushing the Limits was not what I expected, in a good way. For example, based upon the synopsis, I automatically assumed the abuse that Echo suffered was from her "jock" boyfriend. I don't know why, but I had it in my head that maybe one night they were at a party, he slipped something in her drink (or attempted to get her drunk), and tried to molest her which resulted in the "freaky" scars on her arms and loss of memory. Boy was I wrong about everything. The plot itself is way more complex than that which is one of the things I absolutely love about this book.
First and foremost, when I started reading, I didn't expect the chapters to alternate between Echo and Noah. I love this technique because I enjoy being able to get into the heads of more than one character. Plus, it gave me the heads up that this story wasn't going to be just about Echo which again, I just assumed based on the book blurb. This is just as much as Noah's story as it is Echo's. And while I was blown away by Echo's dysfunctional family dynamic, it was Noah's relationship with his brothers and best friends that had me shedding some tears. I think the less I say about the actual plot of both of their stories will be more beneficial for you as the reader, so I am just going to leave it at that.
I also like how the author explored the different views on grief and the depth of Echo's therapy sessions. It's revealed pretty early that Echo had an older brother named Aires, who died while on active duty. He was her world, her rock when things got crazy at home. She used to keep him company while he worked on restoring a classic car and when he died, it became her passion: she wanted to fix the car up in her brother's honor. Echo's father, on the other hand, thinks it is a stupid idea and rather sell the car. Some people rather forget when they are grieving. I also give the author tremendous credit for writing about mental illness, memory loss after a traumatic experience, and how it not only affects a teen's home life, but that of their social life in a school setting. Let's face it, kids can be cruel; I see it every day as a teacher. In general, students are either trying to look cool, or trying to blend in so they don't draw unwanted attention. If a rumor about someone starts to go around school, most rather believe it than go up to the person in question and find out the truth for themselves. Sad but true.
McGarry is also great at writing secondary characters. I absolutely fell in love with Isaiah who is Noah's best friend and "foster" brother. While Beth annoyed me a bit, one particular scene that I will not spoil changed my view of her greatly. There were still scenes where she made me roll my eyes, but I get where the attitude comes from. Since I am on the topic of Beth, I recently found out that Katie McGarry will be giving Beth her own book. At first I was doing cart wheels because...well, let's just say there is major chemistry between Beth and Isaiah. So of course I thought, awesome, the author is going to write Beth and Isaiah's story. But when I read the little sneak peak at the end of Pushing the Limits...I'll let you be the judge of it. If it's going where I think it's going, that really sucks, but I am willing to give McGarry a chance since Pushing the Limits really did blow me away. She knows her characters better than I do, so I guess she has something up her sleeve! I'll just have to trust her on this!
This book should definitely be filed under Mature Young Adult. McGarry does not hold back on cursing, sexual situations, and some drug use. If these things bother you, then this book isn't for you. But just be aware that Pushing the Limits is so much more. These things just add to the realism of the story. I truly commend her for tackling controversial topics, even some I haven't mentioned in this review, such as the Foster Care system and the affects it has on children, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Like I said before, I am a huge Simone Elkeles fan and the biggest compliment I could give Katie McGarry is that Pushing the Limits reminds me so much of Elkeles' novels. Yet she is able to create her own voice, her own style. I look forward to Beth's story next, and hopefully Isaiah's after that!