Thursday, 28 March 2013

Review: Pushing the Limits, Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)

Katie McGarry

Mira Ink, 2012

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 muchimpossible.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.

I wavered on a rating for this book for a while. I feel like I've given books I've enjoyed to a similar extent a slightly higher rating, but that's because Pushing the Limits had a few too many niggles for me to really engage with it. The more I've had chance to think about it, the more I've been aggravated by a number of elements.

Pushing the Limits alternates between the first-person narration of Echo and Noah. Echo is a former member of the popular crowd at her high school, until a traumatic incident left her scarred and broken and unable to remember exactly what happened (at which point, her 'friends' all seem to have buggered off). Noah is RESIDENT BAD BOY, as identified by his leather jacket and some tattoos. He's been in foster care ever since his parents died, and his younger brothers live with a different foster family and are allowed only limited contact with Noah. (Foster care is apparently social anathema at this high school, too - I think someone actually "gasped" when told Noah was a foster kid.) Echo and Noah have been assigned the same guidance counsellor, Mrs Collins, who was a genuinely likable character in a sea of many less likable ones. As guidance counsellors go, she's not so many paces behind Allison Janney's Ms. Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You. ("What's another word for... engorged?")

Anyway. I digress. The very opening scene of the book, in which Echo, Mrs Collins, and Echo's father and stepmother all sit around and discuss Echo, seemed laden with cliches - the young, pregnant, evil stepmother! the my-way-or-the-highway father! the sullen teenager! Echo can't remember the bad thing that happened to her, and even though everyone else knows, they tell her she has to remember on her own (which seemed to have some psychological reasoning behind it, but which seemed kind of mean at the same time). I felt bad for Echo, but at the same time I don't think I ever cared enough about her as a character.

However, most of the problems I have with Pushing the Limits stem from the character of Noah. More pertinently, they stem from Noah somehow being the desirable boy in the book. I just couldn’t get on board with Noah as this supposedly dream guy. Sure, he doesn't try and push her into sex like her ex-boyfriend did, and he’s generally considerate and treats her well (although I don’t know if my dad would be too thrilled if some guy was groping the inside of my thigh when they met for the first time…). But Noah is horribly possessive, and somehow that becomes a ‘good’ thing here. He constantly refers to Echo as being his – “my girl”, “my siren” (argh), “my nymph” (shut the f…ront door). When he talks to his friend about whether he and Echo are together, he doesn’t say, “she’s my girlfriend”, he says, “I told her she was mine.” I bet she’s well pleased with that. (Except I think she is, and that’s kind of what bothered me.) He’s all ready to punch any guy that comes near her, even if they’re friends, and he says at one point that he’s glad they’re not going to a particular party because Echo’s friend Antonio will be there, and Antonio might be a little too interested in Echo for Noah’s liking. OH OKAY THEN.

Not to mention the whole - holding her hand = "marking my territory". Excuse me while I do the socially-acceptable version of peeing on you, woman.

McGarry included some interesting issues in Pushing the Limits, and ones that didn't seem overdone - Noah's case with his brothers was presented well, and I liked how we saw the different angles and different points of view, as well as the difficulties surrounding it. Noah didn't do himself many favours, and he was slow in coming to the realisation that everyone else had had - that maybe it wasn't a great idea to go to court and fight for custody - but the plotline itself was one of the things I enjoyed more.

I can see the appeal of Pushing the Limits in theory (and if you don't mind that you're kissing a boy who refers to you as his "nymph", there's a lot of material to please fans of YA romance) but it didn't do much for me at all. The main characters didn't grab me and there were so many questionable things happening that I could never really immerse myself in the story before someone else did or said something outlandish or strange or totally not in keeping with their character, just so the story would move along. (Case in point - Luke going from "YOU DON'T STEAL MY GIRLFRIEND!" to "actually, you guys make an awesome couple and he treats you so much better than I did" in ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS.)

Overall rating: 3/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this more than you, but your review picks up on the things that bothered me.


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