It's been a long long time since I've given any book 5 Stars but Pushing the Limits pulled me in from the first page and held my attention to the veryIt's been a long long time since I've given any book 5 Stars but Pushing the Limits pulled me in from the first page and held my attention to the very last! Dark, edgy, and perfect. Need I say more? Okay, probably...so I will.
Honestly, I was going to wait and write this review in a couple of days but I was discussing it with my girls over at Starbooks and I became inspired. I've never been much of a contemporary fan, but I'm finding myself reading more and more of them lately. I think it's because I love the darkness of paranormal romance and contemporary tends to be light-hearted and a little too happily-ever-after for me. Not a problem with Katie McGarry's debut Pushing the Limits.
Two teens who have been through traumatic and horrifying life-altering events. One withdraws into herself and the other becomes the bad boy you can't help but love. If Noah and Echo could be summed up as "withdrawn" and "typical bad boy" then 5 stars wouldn't be called for. Fortunately, Ms. McGarry has created deep and complex characters who embodied so many emotions I sometimes felt a little overwhelmed. But...people, especially hormonal teenagers, are never as clearly cut and simple as some writers would have you believe.
"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
So many times when an author writes about tragedies I feel like I am standing on the outside looking in. I connected with Echo instantly. Because Echo has suppressed her "incident," the reader discovers what happened to her as Echo remembers the bits and pieces. Watching her put the puzzle together created a perfect amount of suspense. Gosh...I really don't want to write any spoilers, but I can't really avoid this one. Spoiler Warning: Even though I knew Echo should avoid her mother at all costs, I completely understood her need to seek her out. Partially because Echo needed to understand why her mom did what she did and partially just because her mom is her mom...you know? Spoiler over!
"I wrote about the person I love the most, my older brother, Noah. We don't live together so I wrote what I imagine he does when we're not together." "And what is that?" prodded the stout man. "He's a superhero who saves people in danger, because he saved me and my brother from dying in a fire a couple of years ago. Noah is better than Batman." The crowd chuckled. "I love you, too, lil' bro." - Noah and his brother Jacob.
And Noah...well, let's just say WOW! Talk about a young man with issues who has handled them horribly, but I understood every broken piece of him and could imagine myself reacting in the same ways. There's so much depth to his character. Yes, he is the pot-smoking, gave up on life, who gives a damn guy...at least on the outside. Internally, he has two younger brothers he loves and wants nothing more than to assure they are safe. Victims of a horrible house fire that took their parents, these three boys got thrown into the "system" and separated. Noah's innate instinct to protect all children earns him the reputation of being unstable and violent, so his visitation rights with his brothers range from monthly supervised to nonexistent. But Noah doesn't give up easily. Noah's love for his brothers and their family bond brought a whole other level of emotional attachment to his story.
We'd read about sirens in English this fall; Greek mythology bullshit about women so beautiful, their voices so enchanting, that men did anything for them. Turned out that mythology crap was real, because every time I saw her, I lost my mind. - Noah
Noah earned my love and devotion not only because of his blood family devotion but his devotion to foster siblings too. Anybody who is as protective and supportive as Noah is innately good, no matter how much they wish otherwise. I actually think Noah reminds me a bit of my oldest daughter who has told me on more than one occasion that she's tired of "always being the good girl." I simply remind her that she knows who she is deep inside, no matter what she does or doesn't do.
"Do I need to contact your social worker?" I headed for the door. "Go ahead. What is she going to do? Rip my family apart? Put me in the foster care system? Continue to dig and you'll see you're too late." "When was the last time you saw your brothers, Noah?" My hand froze on the doorknob. "What if I could offer you increased supervised visitation?" I let go of the doorknob and sat back down. - Noah and Mrs. Collins
Mrs. Collins may be my favorite adult character in a YA book ever. She's new to the school system but a completely awesome clinical social worker. Whether she meant for the outcome to be what it was or not, she understood both Echo and Noah on a level no one else ever could. Pairing them accomplished much more than I expected and their characters complimented each other perfectly.
"Baby, no one would ever make the mistake of using the word ugly with you. Especially with me around. He pushed the curls off my face, his fingers leaving a burning trail. "Everything about you is beautiful and sexy as hell." - Noah
Both Noah and Echo have so much to overcome and Noah has so much to fight for, including Echo. Their emotional roller-coaster caused the deepest parts of my soul to ache. I wanted to jump in the book and fix everything for them, as impossible as it would be. I think that's where my attachment to Mrs. Collins came from. She always had Noah's and Echo's best interests in mind, even when they didn't like or trust her. And...Mrs. Collins doesn't dwell on making them like her, she gains their trust with actions as opposed to words. Nothing comes easy for any of them, but eventually, things do come together.
I kissed her lips. Soft, full, warm--everything I'd fantasized it would be and more, so much more. Echo hesitantly pressed back, a curious question for which I had a response. I parted my lips and teased her bottom one, begging, praying, for permission...She opened her mouth, her tongue seductively touching mine, almost bringing me to my knees. Flames licked through me as our kiss deepened. Her hands massaged my scalp and neck, only stoking the heat of the fire. - Noah
The book is written in first person from both Echo's and Noah's perspectives. Since I had an egalley from NetGalley, the POV's bled into each other. I'm certain the finished product will be better defined. I loved getting inside Noah's head and seeing his heart-ache. I know some people don't like dual POV's and for so long, it was a huge No-No, but I love seeing more than one side of the story. I'm one of those nosy people who want to know what the other main characters are thinking and third person omniscient sometimes seems a step or two removed for me.
My final thoughts:
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is a book filled with warring emotions. Pain and numbness. Loss and gain. Heart-ache and love. Dark intermingled with moments of light. Brutality and gentleness. Two teenagers who lose everything separately and then find their way together. There is nothing I didn't love about this book. The emotions are raw and gripping, the friendships real and imperfect, and the romance is slow burning, building into a heated flame of passion.
Side note: If there were any problems with the writing, I was too absorbed in the story-line to notice. Ms. McGarry's world-building and story-telling skills rocked my world!
*This book was obtained via NetGalley and HarlequinTeen Publishing in exchange for my honest review. No money exchanged hands. Both the cover-art and the synopsis were obtained from Goodreads for the soul purpose of this review....more
After needing a break from reading so many dark books, I needed something fun. When I asked for recommendations I was repeatedly told to read Anna andAfter needing a break from reading so many dark books, I needed something fun. When I asked for recommendations I was repeatedly told to read Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Perfect recommendations...both of them.
I don't read a lot of contemporary YA but after reading Anna and the French Kiss, I can promise I will be reading tons more of this cute little sub-genre...plus lots more by Stephanie Perkins. She is so much fun to read. Her books are spunky and light. Her characters are always flawed in some completely human way but undeniably loveable. The kind of loveable that there is absolutely no way you can't fall in love with them.
Anna and the French Kiss tells a story of Anna, obviously, who is forced to go to a boarding school in France. How sad for her...right? Well, actually it really is. Her dad is now a famous author and decides that this is what she needs. She is a senior for goodness sake. Going to school in a different country for the last year of high school is completely ridiculous. Agreed? Well...personally, I would have loved to have gone to high school in Paris, and eventually Anna is grateful that she has this experience. It just takes time.
Anna wants nothing more than to become a film critic. She loves movies, all movies, but she doesn't want to be an actress. She lives to be the next great female film critic. Anna misses her home in Atlanta; her job at the Royal Midtown 14 multiplex; her friend, Bridgette; hopeful boyfriend, Toph; and her brother, Seany. Now she is in a new country, unable to speak French, without friends.
It doesn't take her long to make friends though. Meredith finds her crying in her room and invites her next door for hot chocolate and that marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Okay, a little far...maybe but it is exactly what Anna needed to make it through the night and the first day of school. Anna is soon surrounded with Meredith's other friends...including the infamous Etienne St. Clair, or just St. Clair. SWOON! I loved St. Clair from the moment Anna ran into him in the hall. I fell a little bit more in love with the turn of every page.
St. Clair has a girlfriend, Ellie. He has been with her for over a year and she may be the undoing of Anna. St. Clair proves to be a good friend, with great hair, and a sexy English accent. He has his own set of problems that only get worse throughout the year. His father is a giant @$$, refusing to let St. Clair go to San Fransisco to see his very sick mother. St. Clair goes a little insane, drinking a little too much, showing up at Anna's door and professing his undying love...only to be dragged away by his girlfriend. Things are changing all around St. Clair and he needs some sort of stability in his life, so breaking up with Ellie is out of the question...at least for a little while.
This it the first book I remember reading that is written in present tense. I remember reading an article somewhere stating that books written in present tense often sound like movie scripts. I never got that feeling from this book. Stephanie's writing is fun and upbeat. I love her fascination with hair. Her descriptions are out of this world. And her world building is completely made of awesomeness.
This book didn't make me want to go to Paris, it made me NEED to go. I loved the school, the sights, and the city. I loved St. Clair's crazy fear of heights and his love of The Hat. I loved that Anna couldn't speak French and was terrified to order food in the cafeteria. I loved that not one single person in this book was "perfect." This aspect of Stephanie's writing created perfect characters. I know...a little backwards...I know. I love that love didn't come quick or easy for Anna and St. Clair. They worked for it. I love that they were friends before they were anything else. I love, I love, I love.
I would like to tell you there was something I hated about this book but there wasn't. There wasn't even something I disliked...with the exception of St. Clair's dad...in this book. It left me smiling and happy. Completely refreshed for another round of darkness....more
Oh, this is one of my favorite books ever written. Seriously. Lola and the Boy Next Door is a contemporary YA book that had me doubling over laughing,Oh, this is one of my favorite books ever written. Seriously. Lola and the Boy Next Door is a contemporary YA book that had me doubling over laughing, squeeing on the edge of my chair, and most of all...wanting things to be alright for Cricket and Lola. If any two people deserve happiness, it is them.
Lola has been through hell and back. Her mother got pregnant young and decided to let her brother adopt Lola, knowing that he could provide a more stable home life than she ever could. However, Lola's mom still shows up at some of the most inopportune times, bringing sorrow and disarray into Lola's otherwise perfect life. Lola dresses in costume. That is who she is. When her boyfriend tells her that she is a liar, changing her appearance everyday, never letting anyone see the "real" Lola, she knows that relationship is headed downhill. And...to add insult to injury, the Bell twins have moved back in next door.
Calliope is a figure skater, headed for the Olympics. Cricket's life has always been overshadowed by his sister's life as a star. Moving each time she decides to drop one coach for another, being home-schooled, never having friends. He left his life in San Fransisco years ago. Now he's home and hoping to reclaim that life. If only things were ever that easy. Cricket is going to have to work for Lola's trust, much less her love. Between him and Calliope, Lola had her heart ripped out and shredded into pieces. Cricket might have a chance if he was only making up for his mistakes, but he also has to make amends for what damage his sister caused all those years ago.
Cricket meets a little known character, St. Clair, at Berkley. They become quick friends...as everyone does with St. Clair. This works to Cricket's advantage since Anna is Lola's manager at the movie theater. I love that Stephanie included St. Clair and Anna in Lola and the Boy Next Door. They made a perfect avenue for Cricket to get closer to Lola. And who can resist St. Clair.
Honestly, Cricket is one of my favorite characters ever. He is full of energy and shines like the sun. You just can't help but love him. Again, he is one of Stephanie's perfectly flawed characters. Cricket is weird in his own right, the crazy inventor type. Wild hair, a flair for the flamboyant, and good at everything he does - even though he can't see it. He's a bit insecure about himself...both because of past mistakes and a questionable heritage. He puts himself out there in ways that will cause him pain but he knows what he wants and if he is patient, perhaps he will get it.
Stephanie Perkins is a master at creating beautifully weaved love stories. Love stories that make your heart ache with desire. You cannot not pull for these characters. Nothing about them is perfect and nothing comes easy. That's life, right? But Stephanie's stories flow at a perfect pace, never giving you that break you need to put the book down. I read bot Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door in one sitting. Well, one sitting each. Each time I thought about putting one down...I felt my heart break, needing to know how things would end. Because Stephanie makes her characters work for their happy endings, the chemistry and tension are always palpable on the pages.
It wasn't until these books were recommended to me by some fellow bloggers that I started reading an YA Contemporary...now I seek these books out.
One last thing, I want to say thank you to Stephanie for including a bit about alternative lifestyles in this book. I have family who belong to the LGBT community and it is important to me that their lives are acknowledged in a positive and loving way. I'm not sure it could have been done any better than Stephanie did it....more
The first thing about New Girl that captured my attention was the beautiful, yet eery cover. The girl appears to be floating just beneath the surfaceThe first thing about New Girl that captured my attention was the beautiful, yet eery cover. The girl appears to be floating just beneath the surface of the water, patiently waiting for something...to be saved, maybe? I don't really know, but I fell in love. Then I read the synopsis and knew I had to get my greedy paws on this book...immediately. I'm so glad I did.
I wasn't aware that this novel was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, obviously meaning, I haven't read Rebecca. I have now added it to my TBR list and look forward to reading it soon.
The book starts with "New Girl" getting accepted to a boarding school her senior year. She had originally applied to Manderley several years before wasn't accepted. Her parents continued to submit applications every year and kept it a secret until one day when they received an acceptance letter. Even though it's her senior year and she's perfectly happy with her home and school life, "New Girl" decides to move from the warm Florida coast to chilly New Hampshire. She's determined to make the best at the school of her dreams...or nightmares as the case maybe.
What she doesn't know is she's taking the spot that once belonged to Becca, a girl who went missing at the end of the previous school year. Rumors and mystery surround Becca's disappearance and somehow "New Girl" is taking the brunt of them and can't seem to escape Becca's shadow--from the guys she crushes on to her roommate.
The story consistently built upon itself, each page bringing with it a deeper deception, heart-ache, and finally complete understanding. I enjoyed getting to see the story unfold from both Becca's and "New Girl's (NG)" eyes. As the reader, I became frustrated with the situation wanting to grab NG and tell her all the dirty little secrets. I also wanted to grab Dana, the roommate, and tell her to open her eyes, not everything is as it should be...but then everyone has their secrets...right?
I'd read half the book before I realized I didn't know the main characters name. I know this bothered some people, but it only added to the mystery and intrigue for me. My only problem with New Girl was the flipping between "New Girl's" point of view and Becca's point of view. Alternating POV's don't usually bother me but the fact that it was also a past/present POV shift made everything a little harder to understand.
When I finally read the line in which I find out NG's name...my heart wept with joy.
I highly recommend New Girl to lover's of suspense and romance.
*Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for the chance to preview this uncorrected e-proof. ...more