Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Publishers: Harlequin Teen
Published Date: July 31st 2012
From: NET GALLEY
My rating: 4 out of 5
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
The First 20%
The first 20 fills you in on most of the back story. We come straight into Echo's family therapy session and instantly realise why she's acting the way she is. Noah is waiting outside for his own therapy session. We catch up on his own tragic story of how he was once one of the good sporty students but fell through the gaps in the foster family system and decided to let the stereotype stick. Early on we get to learn that these two characters have their own scars - on the outside as well as in - and how a crafty clinical therapist puts them together not realising that they will be each others salvation.
The Main Characters
With an overbearing father who doesn't listen to her opinion and a new step mum - or ex babysitter - who talks of nothing but their unborn baby its no wonder Echo feels like second best to everything in her life right now. A restraining order prevents any contact with her mother and her brother has died in Afghanistan. There is not much more alone that Echo can take. She has horrid and ugly scars on her wrists that have sparked enough rumours around school so she's now unable to appear normal and prefers to keep gloves on and long sleeves down to hide them. Her best friend Lila sticks with her for the most part but the two other best girl-friends have a hard time dealing with their own emotions and feel that Echo brings down their popularity at school and therefore they avoid her and don't discourage the gossip. The worst part of Echo's story is that she has a complete blank on the day and night of her 'accident'. And no matter what she does nothing can bring back her beloved brother.
Noah has seen the rough end of the stick. He lived a normal life with loving parents and two younger brothers but a house fire killed his parents and put him and his two brothers in the care system. His experience in foster families is harrowing. His first 'family' forced him to punch his foster-father who scarred Noah. The second had him defending the natural born son from being parentally attacked. Noah is then treated as a liability. But he seems to have found a small amount of solace when he's placed with another foster kid his age, Isaiah, and the niece of his present foster-family, Beth. The trio keep each other together and defend each other like a proper family, even though the parents only keep them for the monthly checks.
Noah and Echo are an unlikely couple. But pushed together by their therapist they begin to help each other unravel the harshness of their plight. Noah understands Echo's need to keep covered while Echo understands Noah's need to recover his brothers and get his family back at whatever cost. They both need something and they only have each other to help in their task. Echo needs to know the truth of the night of her accident, and Noah needs to find out more information on the carers of his brothers, deeming them incapable from an early encounter.
I liked Echo and understood exactly why she was reticent towards her father and step-mum. The new baby means a replacement to her and her brother. Her father can barely talk to her any more. Echo has a great character though and isn't afraid. She's uncomfortable at school but she still goes every day and gets through it. She needed Noah as much as he needed her.
Noah was a stranger character though. Being as he didn't have a bad upbringing and his desperation to see his brothers, I'm surprised that he sank to a lower expectation of himself. He knows he's a hot guy and can bag any girl he wants - and does frequently - but Noah has built a defence around himself, a wall so strong that he doesn't let anyone in. Until he meets Echo, and soon every reputation he has gets tested. Echo is no pushover, and Noah can't resist her.
The plot is gripping, compelling and emotionally charged. The pieces of Echo's missing night gradually come back but always at a cost. No matter how much Noah bashes against the walls of the system he doesn't get anywhere until Echo. Without even trying he cleans up his act and begins his arduous task of becoming respectable enough to visit his brothers. Noah and Echo hurt each other, bounce off each other with tears and laughter, trust each other but when things go wrong neither of them have anywhere else to turn.
The only thing that marred this was that Noah asked Echo a question that was completely left of centre which I didn't really feel was in his character. There were also moments when Echo's characteristics and actions were slightly confusing, as if she was going in too many different directions at the same time. The sporadic-ness was a little unsettling. However we did reach a good satisfying ending.
A great read. I enjoy books where you realise that even though the characters are flawed in so many ways, it’s really only those characters that can help heal or fix the other person.