Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Young Adult
2012-08-01 (Harlequin Teen)

Rating: A
Heat: Sweet

Heroine: Echo Emerson – Artistic, Scarred 
Hero: Noah Hutchins – Orphan, In Foster Care 
Setting: Kentucky, USA



Pushing the Limits is a story about two teenagers who have been let down by the adults in their lives. The cause and effect of grown-ups utterly failing them. Miz McGarry really explores the trauma, the… wounds… adults can cause. And how the wounds can fester and grow if nothing is done about it.

Echo Emerson and Noah Hutchins most certainly have their fair share of festering wounds. Told in the first person, Echo and Noah take turns narrating.

Echo Emerson, from the very first line, had my heart. Her thoughts… they hit very close to home.

“My father is a control freak, I hate my stepmother, my brother is dead and my mother has... well... issues. How do you think I’m doing?”

Echo is very introverted, very internalized. Which, considering her support system—or lack thereof—is not surprising. She also has a strong desire to please everyone, particularly her dad. It rang very true in light of how closed-off, emotionally, he is with her. And, like many teens, Echo is desperate to be normal… and very uncomfortable in her own skin. Unlike other teens, however, she is haunted by night terrors. Plagued by repressed memories.

Echo has gone through hell—emotionally and physically—and has the scars to prove it. But she doesn’t have the memories. There is a big, gaping, yawning hole in her mind where the horrible memory of an unspeakable act should be. Because of that blank space, Echo is left drifting—trying to remember, trying to cope with the after-effects.

Noah Hutchins, in the beginning, comes across as a somewhat a-typical pot smoking, smart-mouthed ‘bad boy’.

“You’ve got a fucked-up name,” I mumbled. I didn’t know why I wanted to rattle her, I just did.

Then you see his mouthiness for what it really is—armor. Noah is very closed off… an introvert like Echo. And he doesn’t trust easily. Life has taught him that lesson well. Noah has been used and abused by the system. After standing up for what was right—and throwing a punch at his first foster father—Noah has been labeled a menace.  He’s been passed from one foster family to the next. And, the much bigger issue, his right to visit his younger brothers has been revoked. Noah doesn’t care what his peers think of him, he no longer cares what grades he gets in school. Noah no longer cares about anything… except for his brothers. They are his entire focus.

Thankfully, a wise and determined therapist—Mrs. Collins—decides to throw Echo and Noah together. Sure, it’s a bit like mixing vinegar and baking soda but, in the end, they are exactly what the other needs.

Together, Echo and Noah find a common goal. To get their personal files from Mrs. Collins. The files hold information both are desperate to get their hands on. While working together, hesitantly, especially on Echo’s part, they grow to like each other. Though there is attraction, a friendship blooms first. Trust takes root, which is essential for both. Echo realizes what was normal, what she used to want, no longer applies. She wants Noah, no matter the baggage they both have. And Noah begins to see that he can’t continue to be careless and neglectful. He has to makes plans, truly care, and actually work toward a future. These two are very mature for their age. I enjoyed watching them grow and uncover new aspects of themselves while also learned to trust each other and open up.

Now, I have to admit, one of my biggest emotional kyrptonites is any and all parental issues. If Pushing the Limits was a finger, it would have constantly been poking at my heart. This book found all my soft spots. I can’t say how this story will touch those who don’t have parental angst in their past (or present), but it turned my heart into complete mush. It has a very gentle and thoughtful quality to it and handles some pretty touch issues with care and ease. And the romance between Echo and Noah, it simmers and teases and flirts and had me rooting for them the entire book.

Favorite Quote:

“Noah,” she breathed out, unknowingly fulfilling one of my many fantasies involving Echo. If I played my cards right, maybe she’d fulfill a couple more. I barely brushed my lips down her cheek as I moved toward her mouth. Her nails tickled my chest, driving me insane. Kissing her became my single reason for breathing.


Thoughts While Reading:

18.0% - "My heart hurts. Is this book giving me mini heart attacks?!"
100.0% - "Ugh, my eyes are itchy and swollen. Made me bawl."


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