Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 31st 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 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’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about the utter brilliance of PUSHING THE LIMITS but allow me a few moments to try and put some semblance of sense on the jumble of FEELS I have about this book and its author and to try and convince you to read it.
This is the story of Echo and Noah – two souls who if things hadn’t gone horribly wrong in their respective lives might have possibly found each other anyway but through pain, sadness and a small helping hand from fate come together and find peace in each other away from everything that’s gone wrong in their lives.
Echo was the popular girl, well liked, and dating one of the hottest guys in school when she lost her beloved brother in Afghanistan and soon after on one disastrous night was left with horrific scars on her arms and the knowledge that her mother can no longer come near her. Struggling with memory loss from the trauma, Echo now must deal with a father who is unable to connect with his daughter, a stepmother who was once her nanny and friends who refuse to talk to her because she refuses to “fit in”. Echo needs to find out what happened that night if she’s ever going to move on.
At first glance the snarky and cool Noah seems to be the typical bad boy. Beneath the surface however he’s deeply hurt, shunted from foster home to foster home after his parents are killed in a house fire. Noah’s only concern is gaining custody of his brothers and providing them with the life they deserve.
When Echo and Noah find themselves waiting for individual appointments with Ms Collins, the social worker/counsellor assigned to their cases, sparks fly and the couple find themselves drawn to each other. Both have questions that need answering…will they find them together and will they gain peace they crave so much?
PUSHING THE LIMITS intrigued me from page one. I love Katie McGarry’s writing style, her words flow across the page so easily you can’t help but get caught up in the world she presents.
Echo was a character I adored from the second I met her. Lost in the murkiness of fragmented memories, struggling to get a handle on what happened to her on that fateful night, I was immediately sympathetic. Her moments of clarity when in sessions with Ms. Collins gripped me and the mystery of what caused the scars on her arms was emotionally stirring right up to the big reveal. The tragic nature of her past is utterly heartbreaking and I hate the word “journey” but Echo’s path towards the truth is eye-opening and desperately sad.
How do I even begin to describe Noah? I don’t think I have ever felt so emotional about a character from fiction in my life. The sense of responsibility he has belies his years. At not even 18 his potential has been stifled by tragedy and a failed system. With only tough but fair Beth and sweet and loyal Isaiah as his chosen family Noah feels he has no-one else to rely on.
The connection that forms between them is beyond beautiful. Echo who believes no-one could possibly love her broken body and spirit is supported unquestioningly by Noah. He doesn’t pity her, he doesn’t see her the way the rest of the world see her as a fragile, shattered girl. He sympathises with her plight but more importantly he challenges her. He won’t let her feel sorry for herself and he sees past the outside just as Echo does in return. There’s an unspoken recognition of the pain both of them carry and they realise that while they can push each other the brittle trust that’s formed needs time to set.
The raw emotion that seeps through the pages is at times overwhelming and in particular the moments with Noah and his brothers are so brutally honest and filled with that unconditional love and emotion that is only present with family. His dealings with his brothers’ foster parents are painful and as capable as Noah is; it is in these moments we see how he is still just a child who has been thrown into an adult world. Safety is a feeling he thought could never be experienced again except in the way he imagined his life with his brothers to be and the thought that the little semblance of control he has grasped onto for so long could be lost engulfs him with feelings of panic and loss that are brutal to experiences as a reader.
In addition to the exceptional circumstances of Echo and Noah’s lives PUSHING THE LIMITS is also simply a teenage book with all the usual ups and downs of friendship, sex and romance that comes with adolescence. Their support networks are very different. There’s a disconnection with Echo’s social circle, and apart from Lila who remains a stalwart for Echo, she is continually let down by the rest of her peers. It irked me how Echo’s low self esteem was manipulated by her ex boyfriend Luke and her “friend” Grace to persuade her to fall in line. In contrast Noah’s faithful duo Beth and Isaiah were wonderful both as friends to Noah but also as characters. Despite the fact that they don’t appear very often in the book McGarry’s exceptional development skills meant they were clearly realised in my head and I was aching to discover their own stories.
Interestingly about 2/3 of the way through I began to feel disconnected from the story, enough that I thought my rating would drop significantly however on reflection I believe I know what was the cause. There’s an absence or distance to parts of Echo’s story which is likely due to the fact that Echo cannot remember and while struggling with that memory loss it causes frustration for the reader too. When the barriers fall and she reconnects with her past, the reader is right there with her and that reconciliation is beyond emotional as equally is Noah’s resolution as the weight of the world rests squarely on his shoulders and the realisation that life doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way for him is both hopeful and shattering at the same time. The last 1/3 of the book submerged me in a sea of emotion of my own tears and made me realised my instincts at the beginning of the book were the ones I should have trusted all along.
A simply gorgeous book.