Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.
ARC, 392 pages.
Publication Date: July 31, 2012.
Published by Harlequin Teen.
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.
What a beautiful novel. Really. I'm so thrilled I was able to get this through ARCycling because I might not have given it a chance otherwise. I would have deprived myself of an amazing story and some excellent writing. Well done, Katie McGarry.
Echo and Noah both face some very tough issues. Echo can't remember what happened to her the night she got the scars on her arms. This scares her immensely, especially since she has tried to remember but almost lost her mind. She is also now the school freak due to her scars. The social ostracism she faces, through overheard whispers and laughter and even a shunning from her friend all serve to break Echo's spirit and her self-confidence. Not to mention the pressure of pleasing her father, for whom the best is never good enough.
Noah is a kid of the system, having been in and out of foster homes since his parents' deaths. Even worse than that, he is separated from his two younger brothers, whom he loves more than anything, because of an incident in his first foster home. He turns to his two best friends and to meaningless sex and drugs to deal.
When Echo and Noah begin to talk to one another, not only does a relationship seem unlikely because of who they are, but it also seems like one that would be doomed from the start. Echo refuses to fall for the womanizer who would just use her, and Noah knows he doesn't want any emotional ties. Clearly they're both forced to change their minds a bit.
I fell in love with this book and its characters. Echo and Noah came alive. Their feelings - their pain, their joy, their fear - all resounded with me. I didn't love them from the beginning. They were too willing to be damaged. But as they grew in character, they also grew on me. They have a lot to be afraid of, but they are brave enough to try to live anyway. Even as Noah says that they will never know normal again in their lives, they don't give up their search for something close to it.
Mrs. Collins is a wonderful character herself. She is the one who brings Noah and Echo together, though her intentions only went as far as tutoring. She is present throughout the novel, helping Echo and Noah dig inside themselves for the truth behind their behaviours and really helps facilitate their growth. She is also, though, a unique and fun character all on her own. Encounters with her brought about many grins and chuckles throughout the story, but she also played a large part in some of the most important moments.
The relationships are extremely well developed. Echo and Noah's moves at a really good pace, and although it really just starts as a physical attraction, that's not unrealistic. I really loved that instead of changing for each other, they grew as their own people into what they needed to be for themselves. It made them seem much more honest as characters. The dynamic between Noah, Echo, and Noah's best friends/honourary family members, Isaiah and Beth, was always interesting and was sometimes funny, sometimes tense. It was a great, mixed relationship of love, hate, and family. I also adored the relationship between Noah and his younger (blood) brothers. Since he has limited contact with them, there are limited scenes involving the brothers and this made those scenes have a truly powerful impact. The scenes with Noah and his brothers made me cry. Twice. They were so honest and raw and I fell in love with all of them.
In the end, I wish I could talk about every little aspect of the book that caused me to fall in love with it, but we'd be here forever. It was a stunning look at tough issues and how the teens who deal with them can be down, but never truly out. It explored various relationships in a truthful and beautiful way and showed that there really is more to someone than what you see. They just need to find something to truly believe in and strive for, and the help of a little push along the way.
I truly can't give this any less than 5 Stars.