Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits
By Katie McGarry
Published on July 31, 2012
Publshed by Harlequin Teen
Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

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.

My thoughts...

Have you ever read a book that you felt was so much of a train wreck that even though you wanted to relegate it to the DNF pile, you couldn't, because you wanted to see how much more wreck-tastic it could get?  That's exactly how I felt while reading Pushing the Limits.

I had really high hopes for this one.  It's got great reviews on Goodreads, and I'm a sucker for reading books about damaged people, and seeing how they cope.  But I mostly made this face the entire time I was reading:

The book had a lot of promise in its premise.  Echo experienced something traumatic, of which she's now repressed all memories.  Her ordeal has made her a bit of a social pariah in her high school, with her "cool" friends mostly abandoning her or only wanting to be "private" friends.  She starts seeing a new counselor at school and slowly resolves to get her old life back, and to recover the memories that she's missing from that event a few years ago.  Meanwhile, bad boy Noah has problems of his own as he bounces through the foster care system and gets labeled a stoner, a trouble maker.  Noah and Echo would normally never cross paths, if their lives hadn't been derailed by their own tragedies.  But they do, and, of course, the good girl with secrets falls in love with the bad boy with a hidden heart of gold.

But, see, all of that would be fine, and could make a great story, but almost all of the characters here just suck.  I'm okay with characters who are unlikable -- I don't feel like every book needs to be full of people who are perfect and happy and who don't make mistakes or do dumb things.  I love characters who aren't perfect, and I have a huge soft spot for difficult people in fiction.  But I spent a lot of time going "ugh, gross" in my head while reading.  Echo's friends turn their backs on her when she needs them the most.  Her father is controlling and distant.  Her stepmother comes off as self-absorbed and vapid.  Echo's boyfriend constantly tries to pressure her into having sex.  Noah's thoughts go past your typical teenage boy's and are borderline creepy sometimes.  He's constantly referring to her as his nymph, his siren, making comments about her body, about how he wants her to be his... it was just weird and unrealistic and not something I wanted to be reading, and I am definitely not the type to put a book down just because of graphic content.  

One of my other huge problems with the book is a spoiler, so I'll leave it vague, but the way this book handles mental illness is an absolute shame.  The book tries to fix it at the end when everything falls into place and secrets are revealed -- and people suddenly have complete personality transplants -- but it just mostly turns a character with a severe mental illness into a selfish monster and makes everyone else out to be the good guys.

My favorite characters were the ones who lurked on the periphery.  I wanted to learn more about Aires, Echo's brother who died while serving in Afghanistan.  I wanted to see Noah with his brothers and his parents.  I was curious about the lives of Beth and Isaiah, Noah's friends.  I would totally have read a prequel about any of those characters -- surely it would have been easier to tolerate.  The author's next book takes a look at Beth's life, but based on my experiences with this book, I won't be trying.

If you're going to read it, there's a lot of cursing, drinking, drug use, and sexual content.  Lots of people loved this book, so this review is definitely in the minority.  For reviews that liked this book way more than me, check out any of these blogs:  I'm a Reader, What About You?Sizzling Reads, and Good Choice Reading.

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