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Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Once again I fall prey to the hype monster. Coming off the high of Easy and the complicated mess of the aptly-named Beautiful Disaster, I ran smack-dab into Pushing the Limits. Fairly ecstatic reviews on GoodReads piqued my interest, and before long the little click button on NetGalley was calling my name. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of the fun that I had reading Perfect Chemistry for the first time. Maybe Going Too Far. Upon further perusal, it certainly looked like there would be added personal drama on both sides and that hinted-at mystery aspect encouraged me even more. Perhaps it would be a touch . . . complicated. This is Katie McGarry's first novel, and so I had no idea what the writing would be like. These expectations in mind, I downloaded it to my Nook and dug right in.

Echo Emerson is back at school and thinking she should possibly be anywhere but. After the "incident," she dropped off the face of the planet. Now, after countless social workers and counseling sessions, she's decided to give finishing high school a go. This means weekly meetings with the newfangled guidance counselor who seems to have several motives behind helping Echo. Which means she's forced to sit in a room with her impatient father, her clueless (and pregnant) stepmother, and her nosy guidance counselor and talk about feelings, memory, her mother. All things she's working hard to keep to herself. Noah Hutchins also has weekly meetings with Miss Collins. Noah's consultations are of a different nature entirely. Having lost his parents in a fire, Noah's been through hell in the form of a string of foster homes. Separated from his younger brothers, his one goal is to graduate high school and get custody. Then the three of them will be a family again, independent and free of the abuse and interference that seem to run rampant through the social care system. It's when Echo is assigned the task of tutoring Noah that they begin to find some common ground. And soon a plan hatches to get out of their intolerable sessions and set them both on the path to emancipation.

It really was a nice setup. I liked the possibilities. I definitely wanted to find out (along with Echo) just exactly what happened to her that night at her mother's apartment. And I rooted for Noah to get his family back together again in the most intact form possible. But I'm sad to say that the writing was a far cry from what it needed to be to engender any emotion or affection in me as a reader. Where Perfect Chemistry handily straddled the line between swoontastic and cheesy (at least for me), Pushing the Limits tried painfully hard for that balance and just couldn't manage it. It ran headlong over the cheese precipice and coughed up a side of empty heart for good measure. I could not get over the stumbling block that was the uninspired writing and lackluster plot construction. The whole buildup to Echo's missing memories was drawn-out and fraught with tension, only to fall flat upon the big reveal. Together, Echo and Noah were fun enough (Noah's truly cringeworthy internal dialogue aside). But separately they were given little depth to flesh out their incredibly complex backgrounds. I felt inundated with manufactured emotion and went ahead and finished it just in case the whole thing righted itself in the end. It didn't. It is certainly worth pointing out that I seem to be in the decided minority. Not the first time. Won't be the last. Check it out for yourself if the premise leaves you at all curious. As for me, I'm off for a palate cleanser. Suggestions?

Pushing the Limits is due out July 31st.

Buy: Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

Linkage
Dazzling Reads - " . . . a fabulous and brilliantly written story."
Good Choice Reading - "There isn't a single thing I can think of to complain about."
Obsession with Books - "I loved every moment of it."
Reading After Midnight - "Keep an eye on this book when it comes out."
Tina's Book Reviews - "Katie McGarry delivers the goods and it's not all pretty."

Comments

  1. We are of the same mind with this one, Angie. I was extremely disappointed in this one, especially after so many people were singing its praises. It had a decent concept, but it just didn't work for me. And Noah's internal monologue was torturous. It felt to me like it was trying so hard to be dramatic, that it wasn't dramatic at all. Though, I do think Actual Teens will likely enjoy it.

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    1. Sarah, yep. Classic case of decent concept gone wrong. It was literally painful reading his thoughts. Sooooo melodramatic. You're probably right on the Actual Teens liking it. Though I know a few who would balk at the lack of sophistication in execution. Ah, well.

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    2. Anonymous11:09 PM

      Hmmm...I don't want to sound like a brat, but I feel the need to say something here. Your comment implies that you think that "Actual Teens," as you so lovingly refer to them, are incapable of telling a decent book apart from an ill-written and badly executed one, and thus are able to enjoy a book like Pushing the Limits. That is entirely untrue. Teens can differentiate the good from the bad just as much as you and other adults can. This reminds me of some comments made during the convo about The Fault in Our Stars Angie posted awhile ago. I believe some people commented on how John Green wrote teenagers "smarter than they actually are." That kind of talk is just ridiculous--teens can be and are extremely intelligent, just like fully-grown adults can be completely stupid. Adults who enjoy reading YOUNG ADULT fiction shouldn't go around insult the target audience. After all, the writers (who are adults themselves) think well of teens, otherwise they wouldn't be writing about them.

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    3. Anon, thanks for commenting. I will say that neither Sarah nor I intended to disparage teen intelligence in any way. I'm sorry you clearly felt there was something condescending about the use of the term "actual teens." On the contrary, it was simply an indication that she and I are adult women and therefore cannot speak on a teenager's behalf aside from our memories of being teens ourselves. I think that it's likely some teens (just like some adults) will like this book. And some teens (and adults) will not. The reasons why or why not will vary widely, but none of them have to do with intelligence, and I maintain that our comments did not imply such.

      As for the comments you reference in The Fault in Our Stars convo, that was a frank discussion of the book from a group of readers of a variety of ages and backgrounds. It's also a criticism I've heard from many sources in the past and, I feel, an utterly valid observation. And that's what it was. An observation voiced in the course of a book group discussion. It was not an indictment of teens, their intelligence, or their powers of discernment. Or of John Green--an author I love for his ability to give voice to honest, smart teen characters.

      In the future, if you're going to leave comments critical of other commenters, I would prefer if you did not do so anonymously. It's incredibly difficult to respond to anonymous postings, and I do enjoy engaging in honest, upfront discussions of reading with people willing to identify themselves.

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  2. I guess I'll be filing this away under "guilt-free misses". Thanks for the review. As for a palate cleanser, well, It's pretty hard to points you toward anything you haven't already discovered! But did you ever read any Karen McQuestion? I believe she started out as an indie publisher in the kindle platform, but has gone professional. My favorites were A Scattered Life and Easily Amused.

    And if you are wanting a lovely read and are willing to go to the middle readers genre, I absolutely adored When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

    Also, I need to thank you for For Darkness Shows th Stars. It was exactly perfect.

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    1. Jolie, most definitely.

      And no! I haven't read the McQuestions yet. Thank you so much for the reminder.

      You are actually the second person this week to tell me I need to read When You Reach Me. And my cousin's daughter was reading it when she was here the other night. So clearly it's meant to be.

      Oh, wasn't For Darkness Shows the Stars wonderful? I was holding my breath in a few of those scenes . . .

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  3. I find it quite refreshing to read another perspective on this book. I requested it from Netgalley too after hearing all the praise, but I haven't gotten far with it yet.

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    1. Kay, glad it's refreshing! Let me know what you think when you're done. I really do feel like a lone voice of dissent here.

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  4. I've been looking forward to picking this one up given all the enthusiastic reviews. I'll probably still read it, but I won't give it as high of priority.

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    1. Livi, seems like a good plan to me. I really am mystified at those who loved it no holds barred. I mean, wow.

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  5. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Hi Angie,

    This one was high on my list. I was going to buy it at the end of August with My Life Next Door and Gunmetal Magic (I already gave in and bought For Darkness Shows the Stars). Now I can take it off the list and add Easy and Raw Blue instead!

    Have you read Natasha Friend? I loved For Keeps. Her new one is My Life in Black and White, but I haven't read it yet. I would also recommend Immortal Beloved again. Now that I know you're a Chris Hemsworth fan, I really think you'd like Reyn. Let me know if you get to it.

    KarenS

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    1. Hey Karen! Ooh. Have you read FOR DARKNESS yet? I'm anxious to hear what you thought. I really can't wait for GUNMETAL MAGIC. *sigh*

      I haven't read any Natasha Friend yet. Thank you so much for the reminder. I'll go check her out immediately. And I have IMMORTAL BELOVED on my nightstand now. The Chris Hemsworth namedrop has me pretty anxious to read it now. ;)

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    2. Anonymous4:16 PM

      I haven't read For Darkness yet, but I hope to get to it soon. I will let you know when I do.

      Oh, I hope you enjoy For Keeps, if you decide to read it. I thought it was such a lovely story with a wonderful love interest.

      And Immortal Beloved is one of my all-time favorites.

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  6. Glad to see a more moderate review of this; I'm still really excited to check this out but I know it's entirely possible that I won't like it either.

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    1. Bookworm, happy to come through with a moderate review. I'm glad I didn't deter you from finding out for yourself. But some moderated expectations might be a good idea going in.

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  7. You've had bad luck lately, huh? I would recommend the Regency romance Edenbrooke, which I loved (review in progress). My copy is available if you want it.

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    1. I've actually read a string of ones I liked. But those don't always correspond to the ones you're in the mind to review . . .

      Thanks for the Edenbrooke rec. Shadow Mountain, eh?

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    2. Ok, gooood. I was hoping. :) re: Shadow Mountain Yep! I was surprised.

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  8. Thank goodness for this review. I just finished wrestling with a popular title, and had this one on my list to move onto, well, if not next then soon. Seeing how we tend to be on the same page, I'll just set it aside indefinitely.

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    1. Chelle, which one were you wrestling with?

      I would advise setting it aside for sure. Don't think you'd dig it.

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    2. THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY. It just didn't work for me. On any level. So I'm thankful for the heads-up to steer clear of this one.

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    3. Hm. I've eyed that one a few times but haven't been pushed to try it out. You make me even less inclined.

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  9. I requested this based on the rave reviews too, but haven't started it yet. I know to at least modify my expectations a little!

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    1. Marg, I would advise it, yes.

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  10. I didn't dislike this book, but had similar issues with it to you. Mainly Noah's inner monologue. It was all a bit Fifty Shades in cringe factor - every time her referred to her as his nymph or siren I wanted to puke.

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    1. Sya, his inner monologue was not only cringeworthy but repetitive to the nth degree. Come on! Show some sort of imagination.

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  11. My initial impression of this book was that I would feel the way you ended up feeling, and the fact that you have has me nervous. But then again, if I go in with tempered expectations, maybe I'll enjoy it more? I'm not sure, we shall see. I picked up a copy of this one at BEA because I was at least curious enough to want to check it out. Gonna give it a go at some point, but it's not a top priority.

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    1. Heidi, I just don't think there's any way you're going to like this one. There. I said it. :)

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  12. This was one of the books on my wishlist for august because of it's terrific reviews but it's always good to have another opinion. The writing IS one of the important things in books - it's essential how the feelings and actions are described and all of the reviews I read by now claim that this book has it all. I think I will buy it anyway, but now my expectations aren't too high to fulfill. Thanks :)

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    1. Lila, I'm still really amazed at the consistent glowing reviews. I mean, people LOVE it. So let me know what you think when you do read it. I'd be curious.

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  13. I feel like I have to read this one simply because everyone is talking about it. Does that make me a bandwagon reader? I think it does. Great review, even if this story wasn't your fav.

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    1. Victoria, lol. No judging here. Find out for yourself and be sure to let me know what you thought of it.

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  14. Angie, you and I are on the same page with this one... as well as Beautiful Disaster (but that's a whole OTHER disaster haha). I could not get past the "siren" and "nymph" comments. It bugged me so much that I found myself literally skipping over the sentence whenever I saw it pop up. Because of this, I got so disconnected with the story! Ugh. It had all the makings of a story I truly love, but... it just didn't do it for me. At all.

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    1. Ginger, yeah. There was no way to continue taking Noah seriously after his little nymph monologues. They were just too much, I'm sorry.

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  15. I feel exactly the same way! Especially about Noah's cheese factor. I wish it had been from only Echo's POV :(

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    1. Shanyn, I kind of agree with you there. It should perhaps have just been one POV.

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  16. Ooh, lots of pretties here! I’m kind of in the mood for something that doesn’t involve the world almost being destroyed, so I might pick up Guitar Notes. Thanks!
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  17. I've never read David Levithan before, but this sounds so incredibly interesting! :D Wow, a character that changes everyday. I will definitely be checking this one out.


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  18. I just(well almost, it's my last post anyway) read and reviewed 'Pushing the Limits' and I'm said to say that I agree with you, Angie. I wanted to like the book, I really did.

    I like the story pre-relationship, after that everything kind of fell apart in my opinion. Noah calling/referring to Echo as his "baby" and "my siren" drove me nuts. I also saw some signs of control freak in him, which I found a bit disturbing.

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