Friday, August 31, 2012

There are No Limits

Pushing the Limits (Harlequin Teen)
Do you know that feeling when a book far surpasses the expectations you had for it? When you read a book and think to yourself, "It is so good I don't want it to end!" When I started katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits, I expected teen romance. What I got was so much more.

Echo was once the popular girl with everything going for her, but two years ago she fell off the grid. Her brother died in Afganistan, her mother disappeared, and her father married her former babysitter, but Echo has a secret almost no one knows. Her arms are horribly scarred from something that happened to her at the hands of her own mother, something so terrible Echo has repressed all memories of that day. Living life like an empty shell, Echo is back in therapy, but something is different this time.

Noah lost his parents in a house fire, lost his brothers to foster parents, and the only thing that keeps him in line is the idea that he might get them back when he turns 18. After punching his first foster father (who was abusing his own son), Noah has been bounced from house to house, but he has been at this house with his foster brother and sister for a while. Isaiah and Beth are just as damaged as Noah, but together they make a decent but dysfunctional little family who actually care about each other. But when Noah continues to press the courts and the system to get more visitation with his brothers, their foster parents block him every time. In order to appear to be following the rules, Noah agrees to therapy to deal with everything he has lived through... as long as getting his brothers back is the end result.

What Echo and Noah don't expect is to be put together with Echo tutoring Noah by their mutual therapist. It seems like it would end in disaster, bad boy with tattoos and little rich girl with everything she ever wanted, but their mutual demons give them something in common. Two people who have not had the happy loving lives all children should have find comfort and respect in one another. Together they fill in each other's empty spaces until they become whole again. But there is more at stake than anyone understands. With the emergence of every repressed memory, Echo gets closer to the terrifying truth of what her mother did to scar her, physically and emotionally, and with everything Noah does, his actions and choices are scrutinized to the point where he could lose all hope of getting his brothers back. They know the risks, they fight the feeling, but how can you turn your back on the one person who makes your shattered life whole again?

Oh, sweet Zeus. I loved this book. I read this book, turned the last page, closed my eyes to digest for a minute, and started at the beginning again. This book defied all my preconceived assumptions with buckets of dynamite. With 50 pages to go, my husband came into the living room to find me holding the book with a troubled look on my face. He asked me what was wrong, and I said, "I don't want this book to end!" Yes, he laughed at me a little, but it was true. I didn't want to let go of Echo and Noah. They were the most dynamic, tragic, and beautiful characters I have read in a long time. By 50 pages into this book, you know these characters so well you find yourself laughing, crying, living, and dying along with them. I couldn't believe such characters could exist... especially with such a cheesy cover!

And why would publishers choose to cheapen this incredible story with such a craptastic cover? I will never understand that, but I hope people will look beyond the cheese to see the heart of this really fantastic story. It isn't just a romantic story. There is so much more to this story that the feelings between Echo and Noah are only a fraction of what makes this story so wonderful. The writing is so raw and real you will find yourself hanging on each and every word, living the story along with them. The demons these two carry with them are so difficult to digest, and you never really know the whole story. But most of all, the sacrifice they make for themselves, for their families, and finally, for each other, is beautiful. I loved this book both times I read it and I know I will be reading it again soon. This is the kind of book that stays with you for a long time. So give Noah and Echo some life, because every page makes them just a little more real.

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