July 29, 2013

Review: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

July 29, 2013

The first book from Katie McGarry's Pushing The Limits series -- same title -- received high praises and ratings, and I decided to give it a chance. It presented real challenges people deal with in real life, and changes others perspectives through the eyes of the victim. The story dives into both Echo and Noah's lives in dual alternating POVs.

Title: Pushing The Limits
Series: Pushing The Limits #1
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

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 I liked about this is that it has real and raw substance that tug at your heart strings. The guy isn't of the typical and overused egotistical brooding popular/jock/billionaire/playboy/rock star type. And the girl isn't the overplayed awkward shy girl either. She's got fire under all the pain she harbors. Echo started off as the well-known school club hopper until something life threatening changed her that makes her hide in a shell. All of which happened in the span of a few months after losing her brother. As for Noah, he not only lost loved ones of his own, but also was thrown in a foster care system separated from his brothers. What these two opposites don't know is that they share more common ground than they thought. Echo and Noah both have had a rough life, though circumstantially different cases, who are still living with the affects afterwards. 

A life that no teenagers in high school should have to go through. Both loners in their own way from broken homes, with the small circle who stuck through it all, they find their way to each other. Although it may have been fate -- or a meddling school counselor -- that's responsible for their unlikely bond. They opened up and connected on their desire for normalcy and their love for their brothers. Echo lost hers in battle, while Noah lost custody of his. They form a connection that changes their dynamic somewhere between the tutor sessions and devising a plan to look in their school file in search for answers. It's refreshing that their love was not instant whatsoever, it slowly developed. And Noah isn't that egotistical guy who tries to deny or fight his feelings for the girl. As their relationship grows, they find themselves changing their ways -- in some cases not -- for the better and break free from their reigns together.

The author's use of great analogies and metaphors to relate to their problems helps readers understand the characters. Katie really goes into each challenge and obstacle in thorough detail to help readers understand what the characters go through and feel exactly what they feel. Mental illness like bi-polar and manic depression are heavy topics to cover, and Katie weaved it into the story really well. What Echo goes through is very real and tough to go through, and she finds an anchor in the one person you least expect to find -- and fight -- by your side through it all. Such raw emotions that will leave you teary-eyed and your heart strings securely tugged. Katie McGarry takes readers through lives of Echo and Noah as they deal with demons of the past, and a messy custody battle. 

After fighting through their personal hellhole, they realize that their families aren't as broken as they thought. Even though there's a lot of deep situations going on, the characters dry humor lightens it up the mood and will leave you in a laughing fit. I was a bit bummed that the sex didn't happen [spoiler alert], but there was no need because their love was palpable. 

I grew to like Beth. Like she said about Echo, "She grew on me. Kind of like moss." I don't condone use of marijuana, but when she's under the influence, her humor adds for comedic relief. As heavy as this story is, it can sure use some. Beth is also hilarious when she's completely sober too. I like all the sides to her solely because they rooted from her rough home life, the relationship she has with Noah and Isaiah, and it's also a part of her personality.

I loved the Greek mythology reference behind Echo's and her brothers names, and how well it fit. The ending turned out to be a bit different than I imagined and found the epilogue short and fast-paced, and wish it continued for a little bit longer. They learn to fight through and for everything important to them, and to let go of the pain and biased views on their aspects in life. However, I was happy with how the characters found peace, acceptance, and their HEA after the storm.

Memorable quotes from the book:

Noah: "Why is it that when people around me that my life sucks?"
Mrs. Collins: “Because growing up means making tough choices, and doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing the thing that feels good.”

Noah: "How are you going to tutor me if you get fucking pneumonia?"
Echo: What an odd combination of romantic gesture and horribly crude wording.

Noah: “Baby, you’ve got enough strength and tenacity to take down drug dealers. You’ll be fine.”

Noah: "Echo, how could you think I would leave you? How can you doubt how I feel?"
Echo: "Because. You saw me lose it. You saw me almost go insane."
Noah: "I watched you battle against the worst memory of your life and I watched you win. Make no mistake, Echo. I battled right beside you. You need to find some trust in me ... in us."
Noah: "If you're scared, tell me. If you need to cry and scream, then do it. And you sure as hell don't walk away from us because you think it would be better for me. Here's the reality, Echo: I want to be by your side. If you want to go to the mall stark naked so you can show the world your scars, then let me hold your hand. If you want to see your mom, then tell me that, too. I may not always understand, but damn, baby, I'll try.”

Lila: “I expect a report on his abs. Real details, not romance novel nonsense.” 

Ashley: "Echo, stop!"
Noah's strong hand slipped over my wrist before he entwined his fingers with mine. The sensation of warm flesh against an area I allowed no one to see, much less touch, caused me to shiver. My eyes widened, realizing my mistake. This is what had freaked Ashley out. What had come over me? I never pulled up my sleeves. I spent all my time pulling them down. When had I become...comfortable?
He rubbed his thumb over my hand. "I planned on taking her to my house to meet some of my friends."
Noah could have told them he was getting me to the ghetto to buy us crack and they wouldn't have heard him. Ashley stood in place, staring at my exposed scars as my father stared at our combined hands. I reached over to pull down my sleeve, but Noah casually placed his hand over my forearm, preventing me from doing it. My lungs squeezed out all the oxygen in my body. Noah Hutchins, in fact, a human being, was overtly, on purpose, touching my scars.
Noah continued as nothing earth-shattering had happened. "What time does Echo need to be home?"
Echo: "My curfew is eleven."
Echo's dad: "Twelve. I didn't have a chance to properly introduce myself earlier. I'm Owen Emerson.”

Noah: "Jesus, Echo, circulation in my hand would be a good thing."
Echo: "Sorry."

Echo: "You should put your tongue back in your mouth. You 'll get all cotton-mouthed if it dries out."
Noah: "I can't help it you're hot."

Noah: "How can they let you take Spanish when that's what you speak half the damn time?"
Rico: "Why they let a bunch of gueros take english? You gringos gotta be stupid if you ain't got it down in eighteen years."

Noah: “I told you that you deserved better."
Echo: "Noah?"
Noah: "Echo, you look...Appetizing."
Echo: "Like a chicken wing appetizing or succulent hamburger appetizing?"
Noah: "Appetizing as in your boyfriend's a moron to leave you alone."
Echo: "He's not my boyfriend."
Noah: "Good. Because I was going to ask you to dance."
Echo: "I thought you didn't do dances."
Noah: "I don't. And, this afternoon, I had no intention of coming here. This dance seemed so damned important to you. And you...you 're important to me."
Noah: “Echo, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen because I don’t know. I don’t hold hands in the halway or sit at anyone else’s lunch table. But I swear...on my brothers that you’ll never be a joke to me and you’ll be much more than a girl in the backseat of my car.”

Lila: "What's your problem? You look like a four year old who lost her balloon."

Noah: "I love how you smell. I love how beautiful you are."
Echo: "I love you."
Noah: "Make love to me, Echo. I've never made love."
Echo: "But..."
Noah: "Yes, but never love. Just girls who didn't mean anything. You....Are everything."

Echo: "Do you mind that we're taking it slow?"
Noah: "No. Besides, taking it slow creates buildup. I like anticipation"

Echo's inner monologue: My father was missing some very important meeting, and my stepmother from Oz? I'm sure she was missing her brain. 

Echo: "Ashley's in labor? She can't be. She still has like... Lots of time left. The baby isn't done yet."
Beth: "Do babies have timers? If not, they should."

Echo: “I hope your future includes me. I mean, someone has to continue to kick your butt in pool.”
Noah: “I was letting you win.”
Echo: “Please. You were losing. Badly.”
Noah: “Then I guess I’ll have to keep you around. For good. You’ll be useful during a hustle. I have a lot I want to say to you. A lot I want to apologize for.”
Echo: “Me, too. But can we hash it all out some other time? I’m sort of talked out and I’ve still gotta go see my dad. Do you think we can just take it on faith right now that I want you, you want me, and we’ll figure out the happy ending part later?”
Noah: “I love you, Echo Emerson.”
Echo: “Forever.”

Noah: “Yellow light. Yellow light! Jesus Christ, you can't drive. I could teach you to drive if you 're ready to admit you don't know how."

Noah: "You hate her."
Beth: "She grew on me. Kind of like moss."

Noah: "Where did you decide to go to school?”
Echo: “I don’t know if I’m going to school.”
Noah: “What the fuck do you mean you don’t know? You’ve got colleges falling all over you and you don’t fucking know if you want to go to school?”
Echo: “I see your language has improved.”

Lia: "What's that?"
Natalie:"Noah Hutchins jacket."
Lia: "Why do you have Noah Hutchins's jacket?"
Grace: "We don't have time for small talk. He's coming."
Lila: "Whoa. I need answers. Who's coming? Why does Echo have Noah's jacket and where did you get that sweater?"
Grace: "Luke. For Echo. You were so drunk at the party that you messed up the buddy system and now Echo has Noah's jacket. She can't be seen with it. We're getting Echo's life back."
Echo: "It's a jacket, not crack."

Echo: “I'm scared if I stay, I'll keep looking back and never look forward.”

Noah's thought: Her laughter warmed me in ways a jacket couldn't.

About the author 

KATIE MCGARRY was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, and reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie would love to hear from her readers. Contact her via her website, katielmcgarry.com, follow her on Twitter @KatieMcGarry, or become a fan on Facebook and Goodreads.

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