- Author: Katie McGarry (blog, twitter)
- Genre: YA w/ mature themes
- Publication: July 31, 2012, Harlequin Teen
- Pages: 384
- synopsis from Goodreads
- [book rating=4.5/5]
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.
Pushing the Limits, casts an unabashed light on some very uncomfortable topics such as mental illness, drugs, physical abuse, and death. With a deftness that I haven’t seen in many contemporary YA novels, McGarry, weaves the tale of two lost souls traversing the high school landscape both dealing with their own secret pain. For Echo Emerson, it’s about horrific scars and a night she can’t remember. It’s a dead brother, an insane mother, a distant father, and losing her social status. For Noah Hutchins, it’s about the loss of his parents, the seedy underside of the foster system, drugs, and the struggle to not give up. When these two outcasts cross paths their scorching chemistry lights up the page.
What I found so moving about this novel (and of note I cried 3 separate times in the 4 hours it took me to read this book) was the emotional roller coaster that these two characters went on both together and separately. The emotional highs and lows experienced by both characters made me ache for them as if they were people I personally knew. For anyone that has ever lived with someone with mental illness Echo’s story will ring true. In addition, Noah’s story reveals some of the unspoken hell that many in the sometimes corrupt foster system endure. Make no mistake this book provides an unforgiving look at some real world issues. One of the the many things that I enjoyed about this book was the alternating viewpoints between Noah and Echo. Each chapter alternated being told from their perspectives. Because of this I think that the story was much more interesting as you got dual insight into both of their thoughts and feelings. Moreover, because they were each dealing with separate but equally intense life events it made the story that much more whole, rather than a limiting first person perspective.
As for Noah and Echo where do I begin? Their chemistry was pure fire. Their relationship wasn’t one of insta love and I appreciated that. I liked how it was a slow progression and the story was allowed to unfold naturally. Watching their love for one another grow through-out the novel was pure delight. Their love was a struggle as they both had insurmountable issues to tackle and there was heartache but ultimately the rightness of these two could not be denied. I especially enjoyed getting to know a lot of the side characters. I loved the character Ms. Collins who as the therapist to both Echo and Noah became sort of this omnipresent anchor in both of their lives. She sort of reminded me of Robin William’s character in Good Will Hunting. She was the one adult that Echo and Noah could ultimately trust and who truly put them both on the path to healing. I also loved Noah’s foster siblings, Isaiah and Beth, who both were rife with their own issues and heartbreaking back stories. In fact the second Pushing the Limits novel, called Dare You To, will focus on and tell Beth’s story (can’t wait).
For anyone that likes a more gritty YA novel, I’d urge you to pick up this book and get pushed to the limit.
Purchase Pushing the Limits here