"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.
"An edgy romance that pulls you in and never lets go. I was hooked!"-Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of the Intertwined series
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. ~Goodreads
Author Katie McGarry and her debut novel Pushing the Limits have been receiving the Simone Elkeles/Perfect Chemistry comparison (Elkeles even lends a quote on the cover!). This comparison usually makes me cringe because I've bought into that hype many times only to be horribly disappointed.
I have to say, though, that Pushing the Limits is about as close as you will get to the magic of Perfect Chemistry. It's a fair comparison. However, Pushing the Limits is no Perfect Chemistry copycat. While the foundation of bad boy, wrong side of the tracks Noah - attracted to the beautiful rich girl Echo is there, Katy McGarry finds her own voice and imbues a sense of depth, heartbreak and consequences to her writing.
Both Echo and Noah are very, very damaged characters. They cross paths at the new school therapist’s, Ms. Collins, office. It does not go well. Noah is your typical hormonal teenage boy leering at Echo's boobs and teasing Echo about her name. Echo….Echo….Echo……Yeah. I'm sure she's never heard that one before.
After Ms. Collins assigns Echo to tutor Noah to help get his grades up they begin to see a different side of each other. They have a rocky start but then realize how much they have in common and find ways to help each other gain control of their lives.
Echo lives under the overprotective thumb of her father and his new wife (her former babysitter & now pregnant Ashley). There is a restraining order against her mother because of an event so horrific that it left Echo physically and psychologically scarred. Echo's mind has completely blocked it all out and she still has nightmares as she tries to piece the mystery together. No one will tell her what happened that day. Her brother, the one person she's always relied on died in Afghanistan. Her former "popular crowd" friends either shun her or force her to cover her scars and pretend to act normal so she can slip back into her former perfect life.
Noah is a little different from the normal YA bad boy. He actually was popular with a happy, well adjusted family until tragedy struck killing both his mom and dad. Because of his young age Noah was thrown into the foster care system and separated from his two younger brothers. It has become Noah's goal to get custody of them once he graduates high school. Noah has been in a string of bad foster homes and is convinced that his brothers need rescuing from their current foster family. He has learned to mistrust everyone in his life until Ms. Collins and Echo try to break through.
The two have a strong attraction to each other but it goes much deeper than that. Once Noah sees just how broken Echo is, he becomes her protector. I can't even begin to tell you how important that is to Echo. I don't think I've ever hated supporting characters so much before. All of Echo's so called support system suck. Plain and simple. There is not one person other than Noah (and Ms. Collin's to some extent) who puts Echo's needs first. I know her father, his wife and best friend love her but seriously…….could you people please think of how your actions effect Echo just once?? Her ex-boyfriend had me so mad that if I was physically able to reach through the book and throttle him - I would have. She is let down time and time again as they place their own needs and wants before hers. Except for Noah…..sigh. Loved him. LOVED HIM.
There is swoony romance and the requisite hot and steamy scenes. What took me by surprise was how responsibly McGarry handled them. She tackles issues such as mental illness, parenting and sexuality all deftly and without one iota of preachiness. She also shows multiple sides to a situation. Life is complicated and messy. Sometimes we misjudge people. She shows that.
Another thing that impressed me is the character growth. Echo starts out quite meek and with good reason but as she struggles to learn the truth about what happened with her mom she also learns to trust herself and her instincts. Noah is an enormous help but this isn't a story of girl meets boy = all problems solved. In fact, Noah and Echo getting together could possible make things much worse, especially in Noah's case with his brothers. They make some incredibly tough and very adult choices. I was so proud of both of them and how far they came.
One of my favorite scenes is when Noah comes to Echo's rescue and helps her through one of her flashbacks and although he did help her - it didn't make all her pain go away. It didn't magically make all of Echo's problems vanish as he hoped it would. This was a very realistic approach to a serious problem and I appreciated that the author treated this topic as such.
If I had one minor quibble it would be with some of the dialogue. Noah often refers to Echo as his siren and nymph. It sort of made me roll my eyes. It just felt cheesy at times. Echo refers to some of her friends as "public" friends. I had never heard that phrase before and it seemed off to me. Those are minor complaints to an otherwise very authentic sounding YA.
Rating: 4 out of 4 The first real contender for the Simone Elkeles comparison but make no mistake - Katy McGarry is a new author with her own authentic YA voice. She's on my must read author list from now on.
Author: Website | Twitter
Source: ARC provided by Harlequin Teen at BEA 2012
Pre-order the book! Pushing the Limits (Harlequin Teen) Release date July 31, 2012