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By Katie McGarry
Published in 2012
Goodreads Summary: 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.
I did not go into this book expecting to like it very much. What I was anticipating was a typical "bad boy meets good girl and he rocks her world" type of book, and though those can be done very well, I feel like my literary tastes are growing past a point where I can fully enjoy them. I was expecting a lot of cliches, and a lot of the same stuff we've all seen before. Thank goodness I was wrong.
Pushing the Limits is definitely a character driven story. The plot is a direct effect of the character growth that happens as the novel progresses. And boy do these characters grow. The Echo and Noah at the beginning of the novel are so far away from the Echo and Noah at the end of the novel, I hesitate to even call them the same names. But all of that growth feels natural and most of it happens at a slow enough pace that it's barely noticeable.
I really enjoyed how developed the secondary characters of the novel are, especially the school counselor, Mrs. Collins. She is a large part of the lives of both Echo and Noah, and we get to know her almost as well as we get to know them. Echo's family is also very well developed, and I enjoyed how they grew as well.
The romance between Echo and Noah is not insta-love. It gradually builds and truly feels like an actual young adult romance. It isn't all peaches and cream after they get together, either, which is definitely a plus in my book.
I did have a few problems with this novel. I felt like Echo's mother wasn't as a big a part of the novel as she should have been. I was actually kind of disappointed at how underdeveloped she was, since all the other characters are so well done. I also thought everything wrapped up at the end a little too nicely. It was that the ending was too happy, because I love a happy ending, everything happened at the same time for everyone, and that seemed really strange to me. I really wish the epiphany Noah had could have been more gradual, that plot line seemed especially convenient. There were a few cliche parts that almost made me roll my eyes, but that only happens occasionally, and didn't retract from the rest of the novel too much.
After a slow start, I got really into this book and came out liking it a lot more than I originally thought I would. Pushing the Limits appears to be a typical contemporary YA romance on the outside, and in many ways it is, but there are a lot of unique elements that are very well done and make it stand out from the rest.