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July 9, 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits

by Katie McGarry

Pub.:  July 31st 2012
by Harlequin Teen
Hardcover, 384 pages


"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

"An edgy romance that pulls you in and never lets go. I was hooked!"-Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of the Intertwined series

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

My thoughts:
(spoiler free)

First off, a big THANK YOU to Katie McGarry for reviving my love for YA Contemporary lit with her novel. I haven’t read  YA contemp since high school (I had this crazy idea that with all the paranormals, fantasies, dystopians etc out there lately, good old Contemporary can’t bring anything fresh, interesting and original enough to satisfy my book addiction – pff, like I said, CRAZY!), but ever since I read Pushing The Limits, I couldn’t read anything else but contemporaries. I guess I was a little burn out on paranormals and I wasn’t even aware of it – not until I read this awesomeness of a book. So, thank you Ms McGarry!:)


You might think this is the your typical YA story: outcast girl meets tough, hot boy (there’s even a school project that brings them together), they discover they have things in common and they get each other like no one else does, they fall in love and after a few bumps on the road, they live HEA. Well, you’d be WRONG. There’s sooo much more to this story than that, that I don’t even know where to begin!


Pushing The Limits is an edgy, intense story of finding oneself, of finding love, of learning how to trust someone, of finding the strength and the courage to fight – and beat - your inner demons and not to let anyone else tell you how to live your life. It’s a raw story about loss and redemption, love and friendship, betrayal and forgiveness, sorrow and joy, grief and learning how to let go and move on, about healing and hope and happiness and yes, about pushing the limits. Add to that an absolutely beautiful and compelling writing style, an original, yet very realistic plot and complex, real-life-like characters and you get yourself a book no one, and I mean, NO ONE should miss.


The story is told from both Echo and Noah’s POVs (Eeek! I LOVE books told from alternate POVs!), so it' s very easy to connect with the characters right away and to understand what they are feeling and what they are going through.

Echo used to be one of the perfect, popular girls, but after her ‘accident’ two years ago, her life turned upside down. Now she has these scars no one seems to know where they came from, she’s sad and withdrawn and just tries to get trough the day without too much drama (not an easy thing to do in high school and with a dysfunctional family like hers) and… well, to be normal. Enters Noah. *introduces failed attempt not to sigh and stare all dreamy eyed off into space here* He’s got his own issues, a troubled past, a questionable behavior, he’s hot and dark and brooding, and yet there’s something about him that draws Echo to him. And he’s intrigued by her as well. He wants to talk to her, to get to know her, to find out what’s the real story behind her scars, because he just knows that the rumors about her can’t be true. And don't even get me started on the crazy attraction! 

Though they had classes together, they kind of lived in their own little worlds and didn’t really interact. But after that first meeting, they bump into each other almost everywhere. And neither of them seems to be pleased about that – not at first, anyway.

(Noah’s POV):
“Mrs. Marcos?” asked an angelic voice. “Can you please tell me the upcoming dates for the ACT and SAT?”  […]
I snuck a peek and noticed red, silky, curly hair. I knew her. Echo Emerson. […] I didn’t know much about her other than she kept to herself, she was smart, a redhead and she had big tits. She wore large, long-sleeved shirts that hung off her shoulders and tank tops underneath that revealed just enough to get the fantasies flowing.  Like always, she stared straight ahead as if I didn’t exist. Hell, I probably didn’t exist in her mind. People like Echo Emerson irritated the crap out of me.
 “You’ve got a fucked-up name,” I mumbled. I didn’t know why I wanted to rattle her, I just did. 
“Shouldn’t you be getting high in the bathroom?” (eARC, pg. 20)

(Echo’s POV):
“As if he heard me from across the room, his dark eyes met mine. His shaggy brown hair fell over them, but I could tell he was looking at me. The stubble on his face moved as he smiled. Noah had muscles, looks and trouble stalking him. Somehow, he made jeans and a T-shirt look dangerous. Not that I was into girl-using  stoners.” (pg. 29)


So, don’t get me wrong, it’s an edgy, dramatic story, but there’s humor, sarcasm, easy banter, sweet romance and hot sexual tension in it as well. You know, a bit of everything to make a well balanced story:

His wicked grin made me smile. Not my fake smile—my real one.
In a lightning-fast move, he placed both of his hands on the brick wall, caging me with his body. He leaned toward me and my heart shifted into a gear I didn’t know existed. His warm breath caressed my neck, melting my frozen skin. I tilted my head, waiting for the solid warmth of his body on mine. I could see his eyes again and those dark orbs screamed hunger.
“I heard a rumor.” 
“What’s that?” I struggled to get out.
“It’s your birthday.”
Terrified speaking would break the spell, I licked my suddenly dry lips and nodded.
“Happy birthday.”
Noah drew his lips closer to mine; that sweet musky smell overwhelmed my senses… (pg. 56)

*fans self*

They are drawn to each other, get each other and need each other on a level none of them is ready to accept yet.

(Noah POV): No doubt, Echo Emerson equaled siren. She gave me the same smile I’d seen on Saturday night. That type of smile caused men to write those pussy-ass songs that Isaiah and I made fun of. I’d sit in Mrs. Collins’s office for hours and wake my ass up early to go to calculus in order to see that smile again. This was fucked up. (pg. 81) 

They don’t even realize how much they help and depend on each other until their feelings are so strong, that there’s no going back - not without being completely broken and alone, anyway.

 (Noah POV): No pathetic sympathy crossed her face, only plain understanding. “Think Mrs. Collins put the two most depressed people together on purpose?” I flashed a smile to keep the honesty of the statement from corroding the remainder of my heart.  Her hand retreated. “Wow. I thought I was the only person at this school faking every moment.” (pg. 82)

They have a lot of issues to overcome, personal and family problems to solve, doubts and feelings to figure out, and the fact that everyone else misunderstand, mistreat, misjudge them and try to stand in their way makes it hard for them to open up and develop a relationship. Even their closest friends are skeptical about it. But it doesn't really matter, because in the end, they are stronger, they belong to each other and that's the end of it.

(Noah's POV):
But she appealed to me in more than a physical way. I loved her smile, the light in her eyes when she laughed, and damn if she couldn’t keep up with me. (pg. 124)

(Echo's POV):
Noah listened to me. He made me laugh and he made me feel special. He was strong and warm and caring and…everything. I loved him. I loved him more than I’d ever loved another person in my life. (pg. 232)


Echo’s parents basically suck (sorry, there's no other way to put it - they annoyed me to no end!), but her best friend is awesome. Lila brings a cheerfulness and a sense of belonging to the story with her constant chit chat and positive vibes that were very welcoming, considering Echo's problems. She' s always there for Echo, offering support, even when she doesn' t agree with her choices. (She made me miss high school!) Noah’s best friends are kind of crazy, bun fun crazy, not creepy crazy, and they are there for him when he needs them the most too. Mrs Collins, the high school therapist, was probably the only adult who was kind, patient, caring and believed in Echo and Noah and in their chance to overcome all the insanity surrounding them.

“I’m proud of you, Noah.”  […]
 “Why is it when people are proud of me that my life sucks?”
 “Because growing up means making tough choices, and doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing the thing that feels good.” (Mrs Collins, pg. 366)

(Oh, there's this one scene with Noah and Echo’s dad… *sigh* It was so touching! I cried and smiled and that’s when I fell in love with Noah all over again. When you read the book and get to that point, show it to your boyfriend and tell him "THIS is how it's done!" LOL *just kidding**not really*)

 I mentioned above that this was a story no one should miss and I really meant that. Everything seems so real, raw and personal, because it deals with real life stuff: high school drama, tragedies, family issues, grief, foster systems, drugs, but most importantly, love and hope for something better. It's the kind of book that gives you a life lesson, that makes you think and feel and just like Gena Showalter so accurately put it in her blurb, 'it pulls you in and never lets go' - not even after you’ve finished reading it. And did I mention the beautiful writing?! <3

*There's cussing, mentions of drugs use, abuse and sexual situations that are not appropriate for very young readers.
**Sorry about the quotes overload!
***Quotes are from the eARC version of the book, so they may differ in the final version. 
 ****Review copy provided by the publisher Harlequin Teen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you! 

Buy the book: Amazon / The Book Depository
Stalk the author: Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter



  1. I love your review! Because I am myself head over heels about this book! I am so sooo freaking in love with this book!!! I was sobbing and swooning over Noah I enjoyed every page! We are hosting a Read-A-Long for Pushing The Limits by the end of the month, maybe you can join us :)))) We simply needed to spend more time with this book!

  2. Yay! You're finally back!
    So..about the review...of course I love it, like I love all your reviews, and of course I'll try the book ASAP.
    Welcome back!

  3. @Danny Tank you! Oh, yes, NOAH! *swoon* I love him! And count me in for the Read-A-Long, I could use an excuse to re-read the book any day now!:))

  4. @Christyna Yup, finally! As Adam Black would say, 'Damn, it's good to be back!' :))

    And thanks! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!;) *hugs*


Thanks for stopping by! I love comments! ♥

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