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B REVIEWS B+ Review Contemporary Romance YA

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Publisher: HQN Teen
Where did you get the book: Publisher
Release date: 31st July

This review will contain spoilers as it’s pretty hard to discuss without revealing what happened to Echo.

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.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

When Jane from DA recommended this on twitter, I took myself off to Netgalley to get this for review. It’s been awhile since I read a Contemporary YA, and this looked like a read that was going to be deeper in tone, story, and character development compared to other YAs. I was completely taken aback by this story, and it kept me up until 3am till I read the last page. When a book does that to me, it’s pretty much a winner in my eyes though I had some issues.

Echo Emerson is a teenager that’s had to deal with pretty tough circumstances in life, especially when her older brother, Aries, dies in Afghanistan by an IED. But Echo’s life is changed forever after what she calls the ‘incident.’ Echo can’t remember about the incident, but her scars all over her arms reminds her everyday of it. Echo also has to deal with not seeing her mother who was the cause of the incident, but Echo can’t remember what happened. She’s repressed her memories of that day and evening, and the last time a therapist tried to do so, her fragile mind cracked. So Echo has to deal with the thought that her mother tried to kill her each and every day, and she also has to deal with her Father and his love with Ashley, who used to be Echo’s and Arie’s babysitter, who is now pregnant with her Father’s child.

Writing that out now, I can see that all of that combined was too much angsting for one novel. Afterwards I asked what did poor Echo deserve to have all that thrown at her. The one thing I felt that could have been taken completely away was the Father and Babysitter aspect which at times felt superficial. It was obvious to see that Echo’s father loved her, and I would like to think that any other Father would realise having a new baby after the death of his son, and his daughter nearly being killed would not be the best of times. I felt that Echo’s story was filled to the brim with so much angst that it dulled the emotional impact of her story.

Noah on the other hand…Gah, that really got to me emotionally and I’ll admit I shared a little tear at some of the scenes. Noah has been moved around foster care after his parents died in a fire. The social system also failed him by splitting up him and his two younger brothers. When Noah attacked his foster parent after he saw him beat up his biological son, the foster care people labelled Noah as unstable and his visitation to his brothers was stopped with supervised access only. The foster parents of Tyler and Jacob denied Noah the proper access to them. So Noah has forever hated the social and foster care system that failed him, and he acts out. He smokes dope, he doesn’t show up on time in school, and he has a potty mouth. Again, writing that out it seems incredibly angsty. But reading it, it packed the emotional punch..

Noah and Echo’s romance doesn’t start off easily. Noah is a dick towards Echo, and both of them are not pleased when Echo becomes Noah’s tutor. This is done by their Guidance Counselor at school who really cares about Noah and Echo, and tries to help them both individually. Echo slowly starts to remember flashes of memory of what happened that night with her mother, but her Father would prefer if Ashley would carry on as normal without regaining her memory of that night. Ashley is also incredibly thoughtless in what she says to Echo about her scars. Noah still is dealing with the death of his parents, and his thoughts of his brothers not being with him haunt him and cause him heartbreak. When he sees Tyler injured one day, he thinks his brother’s foster parents did that to him. And he wants to sue for custody when he turns 18, but Joe and Carrie – the foster parents – want to adopt Jacob and Tyler.

In the midst of all this, Echo and Noah are drawn to one another when Noah sees the scars on Echo’s arms. They share with each other what has happened to them, and in time, they draw strength from one another. Echo and Noah have this connection, and to see them draw strength and comfort in each other’s presence was unbelievably sweet. Noah was such a decent person. He let Echo know in no uncertain terms that he was there for her and gave her strength when she needed it.

Noah’s story with his brothers made me quite teary, and the scenes with them will make your heart crack. I actually wondered, does this sort of thing happen in the foster care system in the US. When a family like that is completely broken up, and Noah was too easy labelled as unstable. To have him and his brother’s separated seemed the most despicable thing to do, and for Joe and Carrie to act like they did towards Noah and what they did to try and separate him, I could understand why Noah would do anything in his power to get his brothers back. So whilst you see Noah’s pain, you also saw that despite his good intentions, there was no possible way he could have been a father figure to his brothers. And it’s just a matter of time waiting for Noah to realise that in the book.

Echo slowly starts to regain her memories of what happened that night, and she’s incredibly fragile compared to Noah. As I said above, I think her relationship with her Father and Ashley added too much angst to her story. It didn’t deliver enough impact with so much going on. Echo’s mother was bi-polar. And when I saw that, I admit it made me really uneasy. It just seemed an easy thing to do to make the mother an attempted killer during one of her manic episodes and she also happens to be bi-polar. It is possible for people to be be bi-polar and not be potential killers.

Pushing the Limits was quite a long book, and I’m really glad that it was because nothing was rushed and there was no storyline left unturned. Noah and Echo’s romance sort of holds the two of them together. Despite some of the issues I had with this novel, this is such a compelling read.

The ending of the novel was incredibly satisfying, and it ends on a note that’s full of promise. I give Pushing the Limits a B+.

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By Lou

One thing that Lou loves most is her HEA in romances.

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