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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Pushing the Limits (Harlequin Teen)

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: The cover is ok. It doesn't even come close to showing what a great book this really is. I am happy to see that Noah and Echo are pictured as described (even down to the long sleeves - though I would like to have seen her in gloves). The lighting is well done, but I'm not sure this one would stand out very well on a shelf.The Gist: Overnight, Echo Emerson went from Miss Popularity to the High School Freak and no one knows why. The horrible scars on her arms prove to Echo that something awful happened that night, but she can't remember. Under the guidance of a new therapist, she meets Noah Hutchins, a boy who is not only dark and dangerous, but just as damaged as she is. Fighting their undeniable attraction, they set out to reveal each other's secrets. In order to do so, they must each let their guard down and let the other in.Review: Jumping on the Awesome Book Band Wagon in 3...2...1... WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!Confession time: were it not for the amazing reviews from other bloggers, I never would have picked up this book. I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction and I tend to steer clear of books that appear to focus mainly on a romance ESPECIALLY if they throw out the words "soul mates" or "destiny" (which the UK version does - right on the cover). But Pushing the Limits, is not one of those books. Yes, the romance is a big factor, but it loses center stage to some wonderful character development with a smattering of mystery. McGarry has a remarkable skill in writing broken characters. Echo and Noah both had moments that forcibly grabbed me and threw me into their world. It is not often that a book can evoke such a strong emotional response in me, but this one succeeded. There were several instances where I blinked back tears or fought the urge to shake somebody (usually Echo's parents). The two main characters felt so real that I could easily picture them sitting in my classroom, trying to be invisible, while I sit behind my desk trying to think of a way to reach them. Those are the type of students that break your heart - when you can see so much potential being smothered by so much pain. As characters, Echo and Noah are always compelling, often raw and never boring. They carry the story and have the kind of chemistry that makes the reader's heart race right along with them.I was impressed by the manner in which McGarry tackled the relationships not only between Echo and Noah but between all of the characters on the periphery, especially Noah and his brothers and Echo and her parents. It was heartbreaking to watch Echo interact with her "friends" and family as she struggled to meet their demands and win their love and to stand by while Noah spent supervised visits trying to maintain his connection to the two little boys who were his whole world. Throughout the novel, I was pleased to see a great deal of growth in both characters, but a realistic journey to it. There were struggles, there were setbacks, and, in the end, there were issues that weren't exactly solved, but where steps had been taken down the right path.The writing in Pushing the Limits is clean (though I wish Noah would have laid off the siren and nymph comparisons) and the plot moves at a steady pace. In character driven novels such as this it is easy to let action and excitement fall by the wayside, but the truth behind Echo's scars is revealed in such as way as to keep the reader engaged. As Echo's memory returns in snatches, we begin to see the true horror and sadness behind what happened to her and how broken her family truly was. In splitting the narration between Echo and Noah, McGarry ensures that each chapter leaves the reader wanting to turn one more page, read one more line until, if you are like me, you have finished the entire book in just a few short hours.The only mark against Pushing the Limits is that the sexual nature and vulgar language would prohibit me from recommending it to my Junior High students, though I highly recommend it for teens over 16 and adult lovers of YA novels. Katie McGarry has earned a fan for life. I have already listed Dare You To (Beth's Story) as to-read and will count down the days until it's eventual release sometime in 2013.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upGender: FemaleSex: Kissing, Sexual Acts, Vulgar Sexual Language.Violence: Fist Fight, Drugging, Attempted murderInappropriate Language: Varied and Often: Fuck, Tits, Dick, Ass, Shit, Bitch, Jesus Christ, Pussy, Slut, Bastard, WhoreSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, Marijuana use,Notable Quotables:"She'd come home with me to act as my barrier for Family Firday - or as I liked to refer to it, Dinner for the Damned.""No. I like my brian cells. I find they come in handy when I ... oh, I don't know ... think.""Luke used to give me butterflies. Noah spawned mutant pterodactyls."