I still haven’t quite decided on my rating for this book. It’s somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, but since I’m out of time and I hate being indecisive, I’ll go with 4. On the one hand, Pushing the Limits was a very emotional reading experience for me. It made me laugh and it made me cry several times, which is a rare occurrence these days, contrary to what the rumors would have you believe. On the other hand, though, when I read it at all, I like my contemporary YA to be extremely realistic, and there were things about this book that just didn’t sit well with the adult, rational part of my mind, or rather my 28 years of experience. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Echo Emerson used to be a golden girl: she went to all the right parties, had the best grades, the most popular boyfriend, a large group of friends and an older brother who adored her. Then, during her sophomore year, her brother Aires was killed in Afghanistan and, just months later, she was brutally attacked. Her arms are covered in ugly red scars, but even though Echo knows that her bipolar mother was somehow involved, that entire day is just a huge black hole in her memory.
Before his parents died in a fire, Noah Hutchinson used to be just like Echo, successful and popular. He played sports and dreamed about being accepted to some of the best colleges in the country. For the past two years, he and his two younger brothers have been separated and living in the foster system. The kids are together and with the same foster parents the entire time, but Noah has been moved around more times than he can count. Gradually, he gave up on his dreams, he stopped playing sports when he couldn’t afford it anymore, and started experimenting with soft drugs.
Echo and Noah are united by a common goal: breaking into the school counselor’s office and finding out what happened to Echo in her mother’s apartment and where exactly Noah’s baby brothers live.
Even though I had no trouble connecting with the characters (especially Echo), their relationship was very hard for me to swallow at first. McGarry kept telling me how they felt about each other and my mind registered it, but it took quite a while for me to actually feel it alongside them. This is my main grievance with this book: no matter how much I liked it, when I compare it to contemporary masterpieces written by Kirsty Eagar, Melina Marchetta, Cath Crowley, Jandy Nelson or Hannah Moskowitz, for example, somehow it loses some of its shine.
Another thing I just have to mention is Noah himself. It was impossible not to notice how truly wonderful he was, but instead of it being a good thing, it was a double-edged sword. Boys like Noah simply don’t exist. Kids in his situation aren’t just one deep conversation away from getting their act together, restoring their trust in humanity and setting their priorities straight. They don’t just wake up that easily. I needed Noah to be damaged according to his circumstances, but he just looked like it on the surface and underneath he was perfect.
Now that I managed to get it all off my chest, please disregard everything I wrote and go grab a copy of this book. It is, after all, a very promising debut that will hopefully make you laugh and cry just as much as it did me. It is, perhaps, more suitable for teens and people in their early twenties, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Also posted at The Nocturnal Library