Rummanah Aasi
  Pushing the Limits has been all around the blogosphere in the last few months. With a slew of book giveaways, author interviews, and other tidbits, it is hard to not hear about the book. I have to admit that I was skeptical about picking this book up, but after pasing a 50 page test read I eventually finished it and actually really liked it. As a note, this review is based on the advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher, Harlequin Teen, via Netgalley.

Description: Rendered a subject of gossip after a traumatic night that left her with terrible scars on her arms, Echo is dumped by her boyfriend and bonds with bad-boy Noah, whose tough attitude hides an understanding nature and difficult secrets.

Reviews: Pushing the Limits is a very unusual reading experience for me. There were many reasons why I normally would not like this book: an extreme overdose of issues (i.e. death, grief, foster care, mental illness, high school gossip, etc) along with a heavy current of teen angst, insta-attraction turned into love, a fairly predictable plot, and repetitive phrases that you would have fun counting on your fingers. Despite these flaws, I got sucked into Echo and Noah's story.
 McGarry sets up an intense contemporary romance that delves into the psychological difficulties of two teens who fall in love. Echo and Noah are desperately seeking normal, a goal they both feel is unattainable until they meet one another. Echo can't remember the night her mother apparently tried to kill her. She wears long sleeves and gloves to hide the awful scars left on her arms from that night. She has lost her brother and confidant in the Afghan war and lives with her obnoxious, controlling yet emotionally distant father and step-mother who once was her babysitter. I liked Echo right from the start. She has a good mix of flaws and strengths. She is smart but doesn't have the confidence to confront her once so-called friends after that terrible event. She knows what she doesn't want and what isn't good for her, but yet she dreams to be the girl that everyone once remembered.
   Like Echo, Noah is also a troubled teen. Noah lost his parents in a fire but saved his two younger brothers. All three brothers all are in foster care with different families, but Noah has been separated from his brothers and is determined to gain custody of them when he turns 18. Noah is a well known player whose only interactions with girls is regulated to the back seat of a car or a bed. Normally, I would find Noah appalling but I could tell right away that his bad-boy attitude is a front. He is terrified to make connections, build relationships because in his experience they only end in heartache. His character comes to life when he talks about his brothers and his determination to get full custody of them and to become once again a family. Noah reminded me a lot of Will from Good Will Hunting and that's maybe because I pictured him to be a younger version of Matt Damon.
 Echo and Noah meet and are instantly but secretly attracted to each other. Both see Mrs. Collins, an experienced psychologist, as their school counselor, and neither wants to trust her. I applaud McGarry for making Mrs. Collins a fully realized adult who knows what she is doing. She isn't a bumbling ditz nor a clueless adult trying to regain her lost teenage years by working in a high school. She is aware of Echo and Noah's problems. She realizes what makes Echo and Noah tick and slowly works with them even though both teens view her as a hindrance.
 Told in alternating chapters for both Echo and Noah, the story slowly uncovers the teens' secrets and builds to resolutions for both. I have to say that I was more invested in Noah's story and the scenes involving his brothers made me teary eyed several times. I also was very curious to find out what really happened on that terrible night with Echo. The pacing is done quite well and it moves quickly. If it wasn't for my busy work schedule, I could have easily read it in one sitting despite its 400 pages length. I would read recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary romance, but some may not like the issues weighing down the story. I think readers who give Echo and Noah a chance could be easily persuaded just like me. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, drug use, underage drinking, crude humor, and heavy make-out scenes. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf, Leaving Paradise by Simon Elkeles, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
8 Responses
  1. I had just the same attitude as you -- issues, issues, issues...but if you read it from a teen perspective, I think they will love this one (and really, I did too). I can't keep the Elkeles books on my shelf, and I think this one compares to those (better, IMO.) Great thoughts!

  2. I agree that Mrs. Collins is an incredible adult. It's so refreshing to see positive adults in YA. Noah's story was especially fun to read.

  3. Jenny Says:

    Yay! Glad you enjoyed this one too Rummanah! I just adored it, and was really glad when Noah dropped the bad boy act quickly and we didn't have to work too hard to see past it:) I agree completely on Mrs. Collins, she was one of my favorite characters and I was hugely impressed with her. Also, her driving had me laughing out loud every time:) Lovely review!

  4. I so agree with you about Ms. Collins. It was so nice to see a smart, well fleshed out adult character. I am not a huge fan of contemporary romance but was suprised by this one as well!

  5. Great review! I also really enjoyed this one. Don't think I've found anyone that didn't like it! :D

  6. I figured this one wouldn't appeal to me either, Rummanah, but I ended up liking it as well :) I loved Noah; for me, his story was more interesting than Echo's and the ending with his brothers made me teary too.

  7. Oh didn't you just want to hug Noah and tell him everything would be okay? Being a mom, it broke my heart when he broke down finally. I just wanted to hold him and mother him. I definitely got teary eyed over him. I wasn't so much for Echo, but I felt for her because of the loss of her brother. I hate these f***ing wars! Very nice review, Rummanah! I'm glad you liked this one!!


  8. Candace Says:

    I'm so glad you liked it! I think normally I wouldn't like Noah much but like you I saw through the bad boy act so it was all good. Great review!

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