Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits - Pushing the Limits is easily one of my favorite YA contemporaries that I've read so far. Katie McGarry did a wonderful job writing a book that deals with some serious issues in a way that was also funny and romantic.The two main characters and dual narrators, Echo and Noah, are both working through some very important events in their lives and are definitely struggling to survive when they happen upon each other. The new guidance counselor/therapist at their school has paired them up as tutor and pupil in hopes that Echo will help Noah pass more classes and graduate and Noah can help Echo earn some extra money and get her out of hiding. After a rocky start, they decide working together to access their files within the counselor's office will help solve both of their problems. As they spend more time together they are forced to learn the truth about each other, including Echo's dark past with her family and Noah's past struggles with his foster families and his reputation as a player. They discover they may not be as different as they thought and that the other person could be exactly what they need to help get them through and teach them about real love.Echo was a fantastic female protagonist. At the beginning of the book we meet Echo, her dad, and her pregnant step-mom, who used to be her babysitter. We learn that Echo's mom is no longer part of her life and that something dramatic happened that Echo can't remember. We also learn that Echo's brother was killed while serving in Afghanistan and that he was the one person she trusted and felt loved by. After losing her brother and surviving the dramatic event with her mom, Echo is left with scars all over her arms and a reputation that takes her from a popular girl at school to an outcast. Throughout the story, we get to see true growth from Echo. She faces her fears, confronts her realities, and learns how to let go.Noah is a truly great character. He was once the golden boy star athlete turned struggling bad boy after the death of his parents in a car crash. He starts the book with so much attitude and it appears there is nothing more to him than the chip on his shoulder. But it turns out, there is a lot more going on than what we see. It turns out Noah is a big softy, fiercely loyal, and highly protective. Since losing his parents, he's been carrying a world on his shoulders and trying to do right by those that still love him. He makes mistakes, but he learns. And in the end, he finds that what we wants most may not be the best for everyone. Sometimes letting go is better. Noah really grows up by the end of the book.I'm now a big fan of Katie McGarry and can't wait to read her next book. She gave all of her characters unexpected depth and they all felt real. They were flawed, scarred, and needy. But they were all able to work through their issues in the end. There may have been a happy ending for Echo and Noah, but I guarantee it's not the ending they thought they would get or thought that they wanted. McGarry also gives her characters chances to grow and improve themselves, and though it may take them several tries, they take those chances and the characters that we have grown to love in the book become characters that we also respect in the end.While I am a big fan, there were a couple of issues I had with the book. I think that Noah's dialogue seemed a bit fake and over-the-top in some places. There were a bit too many nicknames, always a baby or something from him. His narrative also seemed a bit feminine in places. He always talked about how Echo smelled like a bakery and cinnamon. It was a little weird for me. I still loved Noah, I just wished it felt a bit more real to me.I find that I tend to like YA contemporaries more if they are either just romance (Anna and the French Kiss) or deal with real issues (Thirteen Reasons Why). But Katie McGarry did an incredible job of finding just the right balance between both in Pushing the Limits. Romance and real life, fun and serious, sexual tension and true love. They're all there and in just the right amounts. Echo and Noah's love story is one of the best I've read. They teach each other how to trust again and together overcome their pasts that threaten to bring them down separately. McGarry shows us that love is something that makes you stronger, divides the difficult tasks, and means taking the other into consideration when making important decisions. Echo and Noah exhibited all of these behaviors. It's books like this one, rather than books like Twilight, that I want showing my kids what love really means.Overall, Pushing the Limits is one of my favorite books I've read this year. It teaches us about love, forgiveness, and letting go. McGarry gives us some incredible characters, a beautiful love story, and a reminder that things aren't always as they seem. If you're looking for a YA contemporary to read, don't miss this one. I give Pushing the Limits 4 stars.