ARC Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Paperback: 416 Pages

Series: Pushing the Limits #1

Publisher: Mira Ink

Find on Goodreads

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 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.”

I hate when this happens!  Here is a perfectly great YA novel, with great characters and a great storyline, that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, and I really wanted to love this. 

Echo Emerson used to be an incredibly popular, super friendly, straight A student before it happened. The day she can’t remember, the day that changed her life and left her with the horrible scars that now mar her arms and back. She knows her mother was somehow involved, but she can’t remember a single thing about that entire day. To top it off, her brother, a soldier in Afghanistan, died several months before the incident.  Now, Echo’s a shell of the person she once was, withdrawn,  insecure because of her scars and exhausted by night terrors.

Noah used to be the boy next door until his parents died. Afterwards, him and his brothers were separated by the system, with him ending up in different, horrible foster homes and his brothers ending up in others, better ones. Carrying a dark secret on his shoulders and being forbidden to see his brothers, Noah turns into a guarded loner and drug user.

Both Echo and Noah have to see the school therapist/social worker, Mrs Collins, and that is how the two are thrust together and get to know each other. What follows, I’m sure doesn’t come as a surprise, is a beautiful love story. They’re both scarred and damaged, in more than one way, so their connection is undeniable.

Sweet, pretty girl who used to be popular and sarcastic bad-boy from the wrong side of the tracks, bonding over schoolwork and similar personal issues? It reminded me of Teenage Dirtbag, the 2009 movie, which I loved.

Even though I had a sense of the general direction the mystery, surrounding Echo’s lost day, will take, I didn’t know exactly what to expect or what her mother did.  However, it’s less about what really happened and more about what consequences remembering will have. What the truth does to Echo and what she’ll do with it.

I liked how McGarry played on our expectations for the end, portraying characters, like Echo’s parents, in a certain way, with the ending revealing something completely different. It took me by surprise in a very, very good way.

I also liked the romance, with its ups and downs, for the most part. I could see why Echo and Noah would connect on such a level, why they would trust each other completely or have reservations about one another.

The characterization was great, for the most part. I didn’t like how Noah was an oblivious bastard at times, it didn’t really make him likeable for me. Also, Echo starts off being such a push-over and, yes, she changes by the end of the book and that was the point, too. But the way she gives in to Noah, so easily and freely, even after he makes her cry, didn’t sit well with me.

I like that Pushing the Limits isn’t just a romance novel with a romantic plotline, it’s a book about relationships, how they look and what they mean from each character’s perspective, be they romantic, friendships or the relationship between family members.

However, I have two main issues with this novel and they both put me off big time. Firstly, there is the melodrama. The self-sacrificing/martyrdom routine grates me. Call me a cynic, but I have a hard time believing or liking it.

Secondly, no teenage boy waxes poetically about a girl the way Noah does about Echo. No teenage boy goes on calling his girlfriend “my nymph”, “my goddess”, it just doesn’t happen. And every time he called her “baby”, I died a bit on the inside, but that’s just me.

Also, every time the author described Echo as “hiding (retreating?) inside her hair”, and she did it a lot of times, I had a clear image of Merida from Brave inside my head. Just saying.

Overall, for a debut, McGarry wrote an exceptional novel and there’s no doubt she’s a talented writer, I just had a hard time connecting or feeling for the characters, because of the various reasons already stated.




*I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley. No money or favors were exchanged.


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