Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)
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.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
(Cover and Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Kat's Review
Pushing the Limits goes beyond the typical teen romance by saddling the main characters with personal issues that separate them from their peers.  Told in the first person, the book alternates chapters from Echo's and from Noah's point of view.  I was a bit wary at first of how this technique was going to work, but it suits this particular story.  Both personal backstories are so central to the narrative that I don't think the novel would have been as powerful if told from just one side.  Understanding how each character came to be outcasts in a sense and how they were trying to heal from their emotional scars was vital in order to understand the romance that grew between them.

Echo and Noah are thrown together at the beginning of the book when Echo is assigned as Noah's tutor in an attempt to make enough money to fix her (dead) brother's car.  Katie McGarry lays out the issues early: Echo was involved in some sort of incident involving her mother that left her with scars up and down her arms and little memory of what actually happened, and she is also mourning the death of her brother, killed in the military.  To top it off, her father and his new wife are expecting a baby.  Echo is struggling to find a way to cope with everything life has thrown her way.

Noah is the resident bad boy, but we learn early that it wasn't always this way.  His social worker lays out a vision of the old Noah- good student and athlete, all lost when his parents are taken in a tragic accident and he is separated from his brothers.  Moved from foster home to foster home, he developed a hardened exterior to cope with the challenges of his new life.  Noah's only goal now is to get his brothers back.

What I liked about this book was the author's ability to tackle difficult topics from the perspective of teenagers.  Echo's need to see her mother and restore that relationship, Noah's ambitious dream of adopting and raising his brothers are seen through the filter of adolescence.  The characters are growing and maturing and worrying about adult issues, while at the same time dealing with friends, reputations, and the thorny issues of relationships and sex.  It's a more complex view of adolescence than most teen romances portray, but it's what elevates this book above so many others that only focus on the thrill of a first kiss. 

The author puts the characters in situations that seem real, using language that feels authentic.  She does a great job of changing the tone of the narrator's voice when she switches from Echo to Noah, highlighting the different ways that each character handles difficult emotions.  I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would when I initially picked it up.  The characters were complex, showing maturity at some points and the lack of maturity that comes with adolescence at others, and the story struck a good balance between serious issues and typical teen drama. 

Rating: A Good Read

This was a really, really, good book.  I am looking forward to the release of Dare You To, the book that centres on Beth, a supporting character in Pushing the Limits.   


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