After reading a number of rave reviews for pushing the limits, I decided it was about time I got dug in too. Although it sounded great, I was originally put off by the sound of all the problems, I just wasn't looking forward to a depressing read. But Pushing the Limits wowed me beyond belief, and no review I write is ever going to be able to do this book justice.
Pushing the Limits follows the lives of both Echo and Noah. Two and a half years ago, something happened to Echo - only she can't remember what. All she knows is she woke up in hospital after almost dying, with scars running up and down her arms, and that she's no longer allowed to see her mother. She wants to know what happened, but she simply can't remember and no-one will tell her. Noah has been in foster care since his parents died, but after punching his foster father when he caught him abusing his own son, Noah has been labelled dangerous and volatile, and has been kept away from his younger brothers, except for supervised visits that come few and far between. Terrified that his brothers will be subject to the abuse he's seen while in the system, he needs to make sure his brothers are safe, but he's not allowed to know anything about their foster parents or where they live.
The details of what happened to Echo are in her file. The information about Noah's brothers is in his file. Both see the same therapist, and together they plan to steal their files. Despite how hard they try, they can't deny their ever growing feelings for each other
Pushing the Limits is not a story about the two teens getting together. No-one's story ends at the beginning - and not everyone has a typical happy ever after. These characters are troubled and damaged, and this is about so much more than boy meets girl; it is about their love, their relationship, their ability to help each other like no-one else can, but also their own stories. Yes, they both need each other, but they also need themselves, and this story follows their own individual journeys away from each other as well as together, and the horrific pasts they each have to deal with, the truths they have to uncover, and the realisations they have to face.
The chemistry between Echo and Noah is unbelievable, but more than that, they are exactly what the other needs. Noah listens to Echo's fears, supports her when she cries, and encourages her when she's doubting herself. Echo is Noah's voice of reason, and talks him out of crazy decisions and taking things too far. They are the only ones who really understand what the other is going through, and so how best to help them. Both are better together than they are apart, but on top of all their other problems, they worry about each other. Noah has a reputation as a stoner loser who's into one night stands - can he seriously be interested in Echo? Echo is beautiful and kind-hearted - when is she going to realise she's too good for Noah, and how is he going to cope once she's gone?
The issues they go through individually were just so hard to read sometimes, because you just felt so bad for them. I couldn't count the number of times I wanted to give each of them a hug. I absolutely adored Mrs. Collins, their therapist, who I want to give a hug just for being so awesome! No matter what our two protagonists think, it's clear from the beginning how much Mrs. Collins cares and that she knows her stuff! But, like them, their problems and the discovery of the truth is something you should experience for yourself, so I'm not going to say any more about them - other than that Katie McGarry should be applauded for just how authentic Pushing the Limits feels, how every emotion feels true, how unflinchingly honest she has been with the stories of these incredible characters.
I have to say, I had a rather personal reaction to this story, and could relate. Not to their problems, the situations or their choices, but sometimes, to the feelings behind those choices. Happy ever after's don't happen. Sometimes, even when you get what you want, things don't always go as planned, and there were times in Pushing the Limits that show us that with the choices you have, the decisions you make, they're not always easy or the happiest of options, but sometimes, what's needed. That's what I related to, having to think with your head and do what was right - but it also made me see the choices of other people in a different light. Sometimes we have to deal with crap, but for the right reasons. It's strange and wonderful; Pushing the Limits made me feel more at peace with things happening in my own life than I was before, and I think that's a rare gift McGarry has.
I am so excited to read Dare You To, a companion novel to Pushing the Limits that comes out sometime next year following Beth, one of the fascinating secondary characters in this book. I'm looking forward to anything McGarry rights in the future! Pushing the Limits is sn incredibly moving, powerful and important debut novel. McGarry is definitely one to watch.