My Review: What can I say about Dare You To without my review sounding redundant? From some of the reviews I have already read, I think other die hard Katie McGarry fans are walking away from this highly anticipated sequel feeling the same way I do. Dare You To confirms a few things. One, Pushing the Limits, book 1 in the series, was not a fluke. Some authors write amazing debuts but have trouble delivering the same impact with their sequels. I'm happy and relieved to say that Katie McGarry won't be going anywhere but to the top. After reading Dare You To, there is no doubt that she is an amazing writer, that she knows how to write characters so well that they feel like they are right in front of you, and most of all, she has the ability to evoke strong emotions. In Pushing the Limits, I was in a constant state of tears and felt a heaviness in my chest. In Dare You To, I felt a range of emotions, everything from exasperation, frustration, to outrage. However, there were a few minor issues I had with the book that kept me from giving it a perfect 5 star rating.
First, here are a few things I loved about Dare You To. I like that Katie McGarry used alternating point-of-view to tell Beth and Ryan's story. Considering the fact that they are so different and that McGarry had a huge job to do in convincing us readers that they belong together, it was almost essential to use this so we can get in both of their heads. Because let's face it. If you've read Pushing the Limits, then most of you, like me, wanted Beth to get with Isaiah. So being able to get to know Ryan personally and to see how Beth truly felt about Isaiah did help me to cope with the fact that this was Beth and Ryan's story, not Beth and Isaiah's.
As she proved in Pushing the Limits, McGarry has no problem pushing boundaries. There are so many authors out there that take on controversial topics but fail in the execution because they are too worried they might offend someone or they feel they need to tone it down for fear that publishing companies will pass them by. Not McGarry. When she commits to a tough topic, she runs with it and stays true. Beth's story is not easy breezy to read-- she has had a very rough childhood. Imagine growing up with alchoholic/drug abusing parents. Imagine your own mother telling you that she hates you, that it's your fault that your father left. Imagine watching your mother get beat over and over again by different boyfriends and then they start beating on you. It would mess up any child. So Beth curses, and she smokes weed to take the edge off and to forget painful memories. Does this mean she is a horrible person? Absolutely not. But if you think this book sugar coats anything, you are wrong. If you are sensitive to cursing, drug use, drinking, and sexual situations, then I suggest you toughen up and go into this book with an open mind. Because this is where Katie McGarry truly shines as an author. She brings a gritty, realistic quality to her writing, just like NY Times & USA Today's Best Selling Author Simone Elkeles is known for in her Perfect Chemistry series. And this is why teens and adults alike are dawn to their novels time and time again.
Lastly, I can't move on until I mention one more important factor that Katie McGarry is a master at and that is creating memorable characters. I know I and other reviewers keep going back to where it all started, book 1, Pushing the Limits. Here is the dilemma. If you are just jumping on board and haven't read book 1, a part of me rather you just read Dare You To first. Sounds weird I know, but I think I myself would have had a much easier time accepting Beth and Ryan's relationship without knowing what happened between Beth and Isaiah in book 1 (oh and trust me, there is a scene in book 1 that is burned on the back of my eyelids that had me thinking WITHOUT A DOUBT that Beth and Isaiah would be together). But then on the other hand, to fully understand Beth, and who she considers her family--Isaiah and Noah, you need to go back to the beginning. That being said, I love that Katie McGarry added in a few scenes with Isaiah and Noah (my heart was pounding when they came to Beth's rescue earlier in the book) and most of all, that one scene with Noah and Echo. This couple burned up the pages in Pushing the Limits and I think the author knew how much fans were hoping for a little Noah and Echo action. There definitely was a scene stealer and that was when Beth took Ryan to one of her kind of parties. In the back yard, Noah was lying in a hammock with his girlfriend Echo and when Noah noticed Ryan staring too long at her, he threatened him to keep his eyes to himself. So incredibly sexy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will see more of them in book 3.
Now to what I had issues with. It's sort of hard for me to focus on just one thing that bothered me about Dare You To. I feel like it is the culimination of a bunch of little things that caused me to drop my rating down to 4 stars. A part of me may still not be completely sold that Beth belongs with Ryan, but that doesn't mean by the end of the book I think she belongs with Isaiah. Sounds weird, I know, but I guess as much as Ryan is a likeable, relatable character with his own set of issues, he just isn't as memorable like Noah and Isaiah are. The heat that I felt between Noah and Echo is not the same thing I felt between Beth and Ryan. But if I sit back and think about it, every relationship is different and so is how love is expressed with other couples. Some people love widly and passionately while love grows slowly and quietly with others. So who am I to say that what Beth and Ryan feel is wrong?
My major issues lie with things being left unresolved between certain characters. Without divulging too much, things with Ryan and his dad felt...unfinished. I know that in real life, not everyone has perfect relationships with their parents, so I wasn't expecting a fairytale ending. But we never really get to learn why his dad feels the way he does about his oldest son, Mark, and Ryan. Enough said about that because I don't want to spoil anything.
Beth's relationship with her Uncle Scott and his wife, Allison, also fell a little flat for me. I wanted to find some redeeming qualities for Allison, Scott's wife. Yes, there is the little scene at the end where it looks like Beth and Allison may have buried the hatchet, but we never really get to know her. I get that Scott himself had a rough childhood and the easiest way for him to keep the demons away was for him to move away and be with someone who wouldn't remind him of his troubled past. But I would also like to think that Allison has a big enough heart that she would love Scott, shady past and all. Unfortunately, most of the book she acts like an uppity b*tch!
Now to Beth's uncle, Scott. We learn that Scott didn't have an easy upbringing himself and he knows what it's like to struggle. Beth remembers when her uncle used to wear baggy pants and talked like a gangster. So what bothered me was all the stipulations he put on Beth when she comes to live with him. I get the no drinking, no drugs, even no smoking cigarettes. But making her change her clothes (she likes to wear ripped jeans and tank tops, like that is a crime!) and not allowing her to buy black hair die??? I wouldn't even consider Beth "goth" but trust me, I work in a school and I see kids wearing worse clothes than ripped up jeans. My point is, I think Scott and Allison spent way too much time on Beth's outward appearance rather than focusing on her inner issues. Scott obviously knows she has been through some major trauma. And when you find out one of the reasons why Beth likes to die her hair black...my heart really did hurt for her. I guess what I am trying to say is, I was waiting for a huge heart to heart conversation between Scott and Beth but it really never happens. I wanted Beth to finally break down and let out all of that pain because keeping that sh*t in is nothing but poison.
Dare You To is a solid sequel that really leaves no doubt as to how talented Katie McGarry truly is. Even though I felt there were a few things left a bit unresolved, I can somewhat accept that because life doesn't always fix itself right away. It may take years before Ryan's father finally comes around to accepting both his sons' choices. It will probably take a lot of time for Beth to break the chains of guilt and responsibility she has had on her shoulders, and Ryan will have to find patience because Beth still has a lot of issues to sort out. I myself have to remain calm and patiently await Crash Into You, book 3, which is Isaiah's book. Because I'm not going to lie, things were left unresolved between Beth, Isaiah, and Noah as well. For thematic reasons, I get why because it is a given that Isaiah has to work out his feelings for Beth and I am sure she will make quite a few appearances. But I can't help but feel that Beth owes Isaiah, Noah, AND Echo an apology. There were quite a few times when I wanted to shake her because the boys wanted a better life for her, they loved her that much. And how many times does Echo have to prove herself to Beth? But we never get that moment of epiphany from her. But I just have to keep reminding myself that it's going to take time for Beth to sort out her issues. After all, how can you recognize and accept love if you can't respect and love yourself?