The only limit Katie McGarry’s YA novel Pushing the Limits pushed was my patience. It took me forever to get through this brick of a novel which was, by my estimation, about 200 pages too long. And it pains me to say this because if there’s one thing I love it’s a bad boy/good girl.
Pushing the Limits is told in the alternating voices of high school seniors Noah and Echo (and oh, how her name grated). We meet them (separately) in the office of Mrs Collins, “Eastwood High’s new clinical social worker.” We meet Echo first. She’s in the office with her father and pregnant stepmother (slash former babysitter, that’s right, the dad married the babysitter). She’s there because “after the incident, Child Protective Services had “strongly encouraged” therapy.” Echo is reluctant to talk and desperate to know more about “the incident”, an event that left her with horrible scars on her arms.
Noah doesn’t want to spend any time with Mrs. Collins, either. “Look,” he tells her at their first meeting, “I already have a social worker and she’s enough of a pain in my ass. Tell your bosses you don’t need to waste your time on me.” Of course, Mrs. Collins sees straight through the tough-guy façade to the cream puff that lives underneath. No question, Noah is a “bad boy” but he’s been dealt a crap hand: his parents were killed in a house fire and his two younger brothers are in foster care, but not in the same foster home as he is. He’s barely allowed to see them because of his “anger” issues.
Mrs. Collins figures that Echo and Noah would make good study partners and it doesn’t take long before the two of them are concentrating more on each other than on calculus.
And seriously, this exchange (before they are even ‘dating’) just made me cringe:
I smacked my lips like a cartoon character and bit into the succulent burger. When the juicy meat touched my tongue, I closed my eyes and moaned.
“I thought girls only looked like that when they orgasmed.”
Trust me, there’s more where that came from.
I can’t quite decide why Pushing the Limits didn’t work for me. I started to get irritated by the number of times Noah called Echo “baby” or reminded me of her silken red curls and cinnamon smell. The central mystery (if you can even call it that) of what happened to Echo is revealed ever…so…slowly and when the truth finally makes its way into the light, it’s a bit of a bummer. There was something shrill about these characters and the way they fumbled through their story towards their happily ever after.