Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits

Pushing the LimitsAuthor: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication date: August 3rd 2012
Paperback, 392 pages

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.


  1. I don't think you can compare anything to Marchetta's work. ;)

    I've heard only gushing reviews about Pushing the Limits, so it's nice to see a review that isn't just like "OMG go buy nooowz, lol."

    It sort of annoys me as well when a character just has a conversation with someone and then they're fine.

    Great review. Hopefully I can pick a copy of this up soon!

  2. Great review, Maja! It's interesting to read your thoughts. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who cried through this! I thought the characters were quite realistic, but then again, I've had no experience with the particular issues in this book, so what do I know? ;) Will you be reading Beth's story? I'm really looking forward to that one. :)

  3. great review....some interesting thoughts u have here....while i'm not much of a contemporary fan....this book is definitely worth a checkout (P.S. i definitely like this cover better than the U.S. one)

    Le' Grande Codex

  4. I finally broke down and requested this after reading all the glowing reviews. I wonder how I will see it....I will come back and compare reviews when I read it. I just checked my schedule and I was ahead until I found out I have three books coming in the mail that I have to read and review. That being said, I will be available to read The Prophet the week of August 5th if that works for you!

  5. Great review. I hadn't thought much about it but as you said, guys like Noah are hard to come by. No one is "one deep conversation from getting their act together"... especially with a past like Noah's and deep-seated issues like his. But I loved the idea of Noah and Echo- of two people with intense issues, fundamentally good at heart getting their act together by the end of their senior year. Thanks for the thought provoking review, Maja :)

  6. Wonderful review, Maja! I guess I never really thought about how credible Noah's character really was since I was so caught up within the story, but now that you mention it, he does seem a little too good to be true, but I still really enjoyed the novel and I'm glad to see that you did too! Will you be continuing the series with Beth's book? I hope so - I'd love to hear your thoughts on that one as well! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

  7. What a well-balanced review, Maja ! I love it. :)
    Like Pooja, I hadn't thought much about guys like Noah existing in the real world, but I think I do see your point. I think the best part of this book for me was Echo.
    I'm glad you liked it regardless of the issues you had. :)

  8. I get what you mean about books just not seeming realistic enough, and it seems to be very true in YA books these days when it comes to boy characters. They are often a bit TOO perfect. Howevever, this sounds like a really emotional book. I'm curious!


  9. Great review, Maja. While I enjoyed a good chunk of this book, I have to say that I had reservations. And I agree with you about Noah. His awakening just seemed too easy.

  10. I have seen this one around a lot. I don't read much contemporary, you know that (even Melina Marchetta, who is poor genius and has scored on the top 4 best books of my life, hasn't managed to pull me into the genre quite yet...) but this one particularly worries me--and you've picked out exactly why: perfect boys like Noah don't exist. When they are broken, they are broken.

    I think that this whole being easy to fix might influence some younger minds to believe they can find their own Noah and "fix" him, which in turn could lead to a heap of trouble and a not-so-happy ending.

    Then again, I'm quite recalcitrant with this whole issue. I can rage all I want about Twilight as a bad role model, but it seems most girls were left undamaged by reading it. So this is all just pointless babbling from someone who reads way too much into her books...

    And who promises to shut up now, really :)

    Great review, Maja!

  11. Great review! I have had so many people tell me (including several out of the blue) that this book is a must read. I don't really like contemporary, but their recommendations - and your review - have made me want to pick it up and at least consider it, just to get an idea of what's out there in the contemporary world. But yeah, I get the indecisive between ratings. Happens to me so often.

    --Megan @ Book Brats

  12. Lovely review, Maja! I completely agree with you. This book made me cry and laugh and jump up and down all in one sitting! It was really unbelievable, because, like you, I haven't been like that (for a book and otherwise) in a super long time! I had almost forgotten what it felt like to get so emotionally involved in a book. :') And Noah. OMG NOAH. LOL Yeah, he is damaged on the outside, but PURRFECT on the inside. Totally. I even really liked Echo. She was a pretty great female MC. SO glad you liked this Maja!! Thanks for the ah-mAZ-inG review, chicky!!! <333

  13. Hah that's so awesome how we reviewed the same book on the same day! Like you said despite the frustrating parts, the book was highly captivating. I can't wait to check out more of McGarry's work. Lovely review hun :)

  14. Whoa, somehow I'm always tempted to start my comment with 'LOL' in your review, Maja! Your witty and amazing reviews always stretch smile on my face! :D I'm glad that you enjoyed this book in overall! I'm reading this right now and I'm a bit concerned about Noah being totally perfect inside. Gah, like you said, it's a double-edged sword! Hopefully I would only be grateful and look past that! ;)

    Fantastic review like always, sweetie! Reading your thoughts are always interesting! :)

  15. Maja, I find it really interesting that you mentioned the author "told" the reader of Echo and Noah's relationship, as opposed to showed. Do you think that is why you weren't entirely convinced of their feelings for each other?

    I'm currently reading this one, and agree with much of what you said in your review. I love the realistic, damaged main characters, and the author really pulls on your emotional strings. Lovely review, Maja. :) You are so very eloquent.

  16. This review had me laughing in the end when you told us to forget everything you said and pick up a copy. It was that, in the end, that made me buy it on my NOOK. I think the only thing so far that I read that will bother me is that apparently her mother is bipolar and it led her to do something to Echo. I think mental illness has ENOUGH stigma. I'm bipolar myself and I'm not sure how I feel about it being used as a plot device. We'll see though.

    All in all Maja, this was an excellent review but, then again, I wouldn't expect any less.

  17. "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."

    Exactly! I think that was my main problem too! Especially when Noah pulled out his all knowing, wisest one Yoda side. There were things about his wisdoms I didn't buy, but then again, stuff like that is easy to over look when he's pressing you up against a wall!


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