Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Pages: 384
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

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.


There are two people talking!

Pushing the Limits is one of those dual narrator books where the narrators alternate by chapter. Usually, I love that...if done right. I like to do the Who's Talking Test to determine how well an author pulled off this narrative style, and unfortunately Pushing the Limits failed the test.

Outside of plot clues, the only way I could tell who was talking was when Noah would refer to Echo as "baby," "siren," and "nymph," (like, enough times to rival Edward's bronze hair) but since that also made me cringe, I'm not counting it as a positive.

I think I would have liked this a lot more if it has been just Echo narrating. Echo's characterization is strong and her voice came across clearly. She's pretty typical for this type of book and her score on the WWMCD Test is only higher because she's such a stock character (bright, troubled, perfectionist, good girl), but she's a stock character done well. I almost kind of felt for her.

But Noah. Oh Noah, I was supposed to fall for you! What happened?! Noah's storyline always felt like an afterthought to me, and one that made me cringe with embarrassment. Ok, I mean, sure, he gets brownie points for wanting to look after his brothers and all, but a BLIND man could have seen how that storyline was going to play out and yet Noah kept barreling down full steam into stupid and it was painful to watch. Especially since we rehashed it about twenty million times more than we needed to.

The fact that his voice and personality also sounded pretty much like Echo didn't help, AT ALL. Between that and the skin-crawly "babies," "sirens," and "nymphs" my swoon was totally killed. I can't swoon over a guy who sounds like a girl. I just, I can't.

Yeah, I'm not an issues book reader, but I can deal with some issues when they're done with a light hand and take a backseat to tension-filled swoon (I'm looking at YOU Going Too Far). But, oh my gosh, Pushing the Limits was like a million parts heavy-handed issue-fest, zero tension, and, ok, a decent bit of swoon (but I couldn't actually get into any of the swooning parts because, ugh, issue overload!) 

Let's see, if I were to make a list of all the issue topics covered in this 400-page tome, you'd have:

  • The mentally ill mother
  • The angsty fear that the MC will develop mom's mental illness because they're SO alike (and, totally creative!)
  • Dead brother
  • Dead parents
  • Drug use
  • Overachiever perfectionism
  • Insomnia
  • Scars
  • Social ostracism
  • Repressed memories
  • Foster care and requisite rage against the system
  • Unfit foster parents
  • Angst against parent who just doesn't get it
  • Teen parenthood
  • Anger against pretty and SO young new step-mom
  • Therapist/mentor who is amazing, quirky, and filled with the power of Therapeutic Awesome—they can break through issue barriers that have thwarted all mere mortals thus far
Aaaaand that's only a partial list. For an already iffy-issue-reader like myself, this was all TOO MUCH. I was ready for the book to be over about 200 pages before it actually ended, but it kept going. I think I could have handled 200 pages and been good. But 400? Not a chance.

And, also, way too predictable. I've read this all already!

Two more swoon reducing things

What happened to my romantic tension?! I thought this was supposed to be a story about two people who totally could NOT be together and who maybe wouldn't even like each other much at first. That's not what happened.

THIS is what happened: Noah is a BAD guy because he...because he just is (even though he's really a GOOD guy and he got a bad rep for punching an abusive foster parent. Except, he didn't get a bad rep for that because most people don't know about that. So, yeah).

Really though, Noah is awesome and everyone approves of him and thinks he's good for Echo (except maybe one girl who isn't very nice anyway and we don't care about her opinion). Even Echo's hardass dad loves Noah and lets Echo sleep over in Noah's bed because Noah is Pure Perfection and he's good for her.

Echo likes him too, and she doesn't waste much time about it. Noah loves Echo almost immediately. Mostly this is because they're both ungodly HOTT, but also because they probably have nice personalities and are going through a lot of issues. They're dating by the midpoint of the book.

The second Swoon-Killer was the issue overload. It's hard to watch a character have a traumatic flashback, barf, cry and shake uncontrollably......aaaand then get it on? I need, erm, a different kind of foreplay please.

Bottom line

This was really not the book for me. When I was a teen and I loved issue books, then this totally would have been the book for me though. But not now. Now, I wanted the book to end sooner. Now, I wanted something different than the same old issue book with the same stock characters and same stock plot progression.

But, sometimes predictability is what you're looking for (give me a predictable romantic comedy any day!), and if you're looking for a standard issue book with a predictable storyline then Pushing the Limits is a good pick. Everything might be "been there, done that" but it's SOLID. Be sure to grab a copy if you're a Simone Elkeles fan.

This is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Pushing the Limits that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. I liked this book more than you but I so agree about the list of issues. I tried to tackle some of them myself in my review but there just wasn't enough room. I'm also happy to not be the only person who doesn't just swoon for Noah-I feel like he's not "bad" enough for you but not "good" enough for me :)

    1. Ha! That is a good description of Noah. I didn't think he was bad enough in the right ways. The ways he was bad were just BAD and were not attractive.

  2. Aw, sad you didn't like it that much. But looking at that loooong list of... it seems unpleasant to have all those issues running wild in the book. I'm waiting for my copy. I'll see if it suits me.Thanks for your review!

    1. I'm so NOT an issue book reader though, so I'd recommend taking my opinion with a grain of salt. For people who like issue books, I don't think they were as overwhelmed with the list of issues like I was. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Although I enjoyed the book slightly more than you, your Who's Talking Test is grand. I have never thought of using that to distinguish between duel perspective books. The romance did catch me off guard. I wasn't expecting it to be so... sweet! Very thoughtful review. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I use that Who's Talking Test all the time. It's super helpful. :) I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the book!

  4. I'm not a big fan of altering POVs either. Yes, I thought the siren/nymph thing got to the eye-rolling point as well. For me, I love issues books when I read contemporary more than the fluffy kind, so the issues won with me. I felt like it wasn't long enough, lol. I haven't decided about the companion novel yet because the character wasn't a favorite of mine. I loved seeing where we differed and agreed :)

    1. I do love alternative POVs, but only when they're done really well. Glad to hear I'm not alone with the siren/nymph thing (also, the nymph one especially made me think of Humbert in Lolita, which is just extra gross).

      Isn't that the best feeling in the world, when a book is super long, and yet you love it so much you wish it was longer? I'm glad you had that experience with this book. There's a companion novel?! You ALWAYS have the cool book news! Who is the main character in the companion novel?

  5. Interesting, I liked the book a lot more but now that I think about it when I was writing the review I did treat it more as if it were Echo's Story and Noah and Echo's.

    I don't know why I liked it so much now that I read your review because the way you broke down things reminds me that it has quite a few things that I don't usually like.
    Maybe it was the predictability thing. LOL

    Who knows, maybe it was the moment I read it or the mood I was in because I did like the book a whole heck of a lot.

    1. Sometimes predictability is so annoying, but sometimes it's like wearing a favorite comfy sweater :) I'm glad you enjoyed the book more than I did!

  6. Oh my gosh, I love this review! A couple of days ago I went looking for a more critical/non-gushy review of Pushing the Limits, but I couldn't find one for the life of me.

    I definitely agree with you on the "issues overload"—McGarry possibly went overboard there. And I do admit that the romance itself was slightly disappointing.

    Great review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. hehe I love finding other negative reviews when I feel like I'm the only one not gushing over a book :P

  7. I don't think I can deal with issues-overload. I mean, if there was a selected amount of issues weaved in nicely (like Laurie Halse-Anderson style), then okay. But if it's overload? Nope.

    Loved your review!

  8. I keep going back and forth on this one - I'll read one review that has me pretty much convinced that I need to read it, and then the next moment I'll read another review that has me wondering why I would even consider it at all. I mean, it really isn't my kind of read in the slightest. But I am also eager to try new things, just to see if my tastes change, you know? Ugh, but I really can't deal with that many issues in one book either. Especially if they're followed by what is supposed to be a sexy scene - umm, no.

    Okay, I think I've made up my mind: I will skip this one but still keep open-minded for something similar to try out...

  9. Excellent review Small...:) You know I liked this book but I think I liked your review better, it pointed out the things that were iffy to me, that little awareness that said.....I read this story 3 books ago.......overall I liked the book but totally see what your saying.

  10. Initially this book lured me in, but then I reminded myself I don't really like issue books. So, I held back and didn't pull the trigger at NG. Then, I kept seeing reviews saying how awesome this one was, I got into it again went back on NG and ALMOST hit the request button. Boy, I'm sure glad I didn't. After reading your thorough review, I've decided this one is probably not for me.....


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