Pushing the Limits #1–4 by Katie McGarry {SERIES Review}

Pushing the Limits Series Review

PtL Intro

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Pushing the Limits Book Info

My Review

*sigh* Honestly, I was expecting a little bit more from this book. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’m still going to continue on with the series, but I’m not as excited about it as I was before I read this book. I guess I was expecting something a little bit more gritty, more real.

Parts of the book felt forced to me — like having Noah’s foster parents make him live in the basement, Echo having issues with her stepmom, Echo’s former BFF being a bitch, and Echo’s ex-boyfriend being a huge dick. A lot of those aspects of the book felt very juvenile and stereotypical. There was lots of issues with people sitting at certain lunch tables and being afraid to be seen holding so-and-so’s jacket. I couldn’t get behind the high school-ness of this book. For some reason, I had assumed it was going to be more mature, maybe a little bit more New Adult-y (not necessarily with sex, but just with character behavior), but it wasn’t.

What I did like was the chemistry behind Echo and Noah. I really did enjoy reading the parts with the two of the them together, helping each other through their issues and learning to overcome their problems. It was sweet to watch their relationship slowly develop after that first spark-filled conversation. Although I do wish that there had been less terms of endearment and commenting on how good the other person smelled. I also really liked the relationship with Noah and his friends Isaiah and Beth, as well as his relationship with his brothers. It was nice to see how much Noah cared for his family. I thought McGarry did a good job giving Noah this “bad boy mystique” without having to delve into asshole territory. He did hang around with pot-smokers and broke a few laws, but at the end of the day, he had a big heart and truly loved Echo, his friends, and family. And I adored how he treated Echo, especially when it came to the issue of sex. Noah was a good example of how a guy should act about sex when he really cares about you.

I had a little bit of a problem with Echo’s past, though. But I’m not sure where it quite went wrong for me. Objectively, I love the idea of reading about somebody dealing with memory problems and having insecurities relating to physical appearance, but I couldn’t quite connect with Echo’s story the way that I wanted to. Maybe it was too angsty or too melodramatic and unrealistic…I’m not really sure. I just thought that parts of it were weird — like how she refused to tell anybody the truth when it was so much better than what people were making up about her, and how her dad didn’t want her taking art classes. Some things like that just didn’t make sense to me, so I had trouble seeing Echo’s character as having real gritty problems vs. just some entertaining character flaw. Out of Breath by Rebecca Donovan is a good example of a book that does familial problems and angst right — but I don’t feel that Pushing the Limits measured up to it.

Ultimately, I just felt a lot of the characters were a little immature for me and that this book was too over-hyped. I enjoyed the chemistry between Echo and Noah, but didn’t connect with a lot of the background characters or Echo’s issues with her past. I’m excited to read more about Beth’s character in Dare You To, though, because I feel like this book was still pretty good for a debut and I’m hoping that the problems I had with it will be resolved in the sequel. I really enjoyed Beth’s character in Pushing the Limits, so I’m excited to see how McGarry handles her in her own book.

“In the crisp, cold February air, we swayed together, moving to our own personal beat. For one moment, we escaped hell. No teachers, no therapist, no well-meaning friends, no nightmares — just the two of us, dancing.”

My Rating 3 Anchors

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Crossing the Line Book Info

My Review

Eh.

This novella wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I didn’t have a strong connection with Lila in Pushing the Limits, but I did like her as a character, so I thought that I might like this, but I ended up having the same connection problems.

I think the problem was because it was so short, we didn’t even really get to experience Lila as her own character before she was thrown together with some random guy we’ve never even heard of before. I’m happy that Lila got her little happily ever after, but it didn’t really add anything to the series to me.

And what is up with both Echo’s and Lila’s ex-boyfriends being pressuring jerks? Are there no nice exes in McGarry’s world?

I thought the whole writing letters to each other thing was cute, but ultimately I just didn’t fall in love with this story. Short and sweet, but not much to it.

My Rating 2 Anchors

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Dare You To Book Info

My Review

Eeee! I absolutely LOVED this sequel to Pushing the Limits. It’s not often that I fangirl about a book, but I seriously loved this one. I think that part of the reason why I liked it so much is because of how “meh” I thought Pushing the Limits was. When I heard that Dare You To was going to be about Beth, I was really excited because I saw a lot of potential in her from her interactions with Noah and Isaiah in the first book.

Beth’s character was just, personally, a better fit for my reading tastes vs. Echo, I think. Beth was grittier and felt more real, whereas while I probably am more like Echo personality-wise, Beth was just so easy to relate to and her story felt less forced. When I realized that Dare You To is actually about Beth’s relationship with Ryan, not Isaiah, as I had assumed after reading Pushing the Limits, I was a little nervous. I had grown to love Beth and Isaiah’s weird best friends, slow burn almost-romance in the first book, but it wasn’t long before I fell completely head over heels with Ryan. He is exactly the kind of guy that I would’ve gone for in high school…and the absolute perfect thing for Beth.

Their relationship was so refreshing. I loved the back-and-forth banter and Beth’s refusal to let him completely in. Watching her slowly work through her trust issues and break down those walls was heartwarming and inspiring. Beth’s past was so sad, but I liked reading about it more than I did Echo’s past, for some reason.

I also liked how things progressed with Isaiah throughout the novel. It was difficult to not have Noah, Isaiah, and Echo in this novel as much as they were in Pushing the Limits, but there was a good reason for it and even though it was hard to watch them drift apart a little, I think that it was ultimately good for Beth and helped heal her. I’m really hoping that the next book will be from Isaiah’s perspective, because I can’t wait for him to find his happily ever after that he so deserves.

Overall, this book was so great. It fell just shy of being head-over-heels amazing, which is why I had to give it only 4.5 stars instead of 5, but I seriously did love this book and am so happy that I decided to continue on with this series after having an only “okay” experience with Pushing the Limits.

“I came to this house for safety. They came because the foster care system ran out of homes. We stayed because we were stray pieces of other puzzles, tired of never fitting.”

My Rating 4.5 anchors

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Crash Into You Book Info

My Review

I LOVED this book! I’ve been hearing the hype about this series forever, but when I finally read Pushing the Limits, I was a little disappointed. But it seems like McGarry has really improved as an author with Dare You To and Crash Into You. I absolutely adored DYT and fell completely in love with CIY — so much so that I read almost the entire 500-page book in one sitting!

I really liked the second book a lot, but I did have a bit of trouble relating to the main character, Beth. That didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the book, because obviously I can like and appreciate characters I can’t personally connect with, but I was really able to form an emotional attachment to Rachel that I just wasn’t with Echo and Beth.

It seems like each of McGarry’s characters suffer from some sort of “problem” that they have to overcome in the book — Noah coming to terms with his brothers being adopted, Echo’s memory issues and shame over her scars, Beth’s emotional walls and mother’s addictions, etc. In CIY, Rachel’s problem is her crippling social anxiety and the lack of honesty between the members in her family.

And I could relate so well to her constantly feeling weak and having to deal with everybody treating her like a sickly person. As somebody who’s disabled, it was (and still sometimes is) a challenge to learn how to be able to ask people for help, to constantly have to rely on other people in order to merely survive. Rachel has the same problem…and she hates that she suffers from a scary condition and very much dislikes the fact that she needs her family’s support. The connection I felt with her only grew when, towards the end of the book, she suffers from another problem that’s unrelated to her anxiety. As somebody who has dealt with both anxiety/depression and a physical disability, Rachel was the exact kind of heroine that I loved reading about. A lot of her thoughts were so similar to things that I’ve thought about or said in the past, and we have gone through a lot of the same types of experiences. And watching her slowly begin to overcome her issues was extremely heartwarming and inspiring. Even though she doesn’t end the book as strong as I would’ve liked her to be, it was actually kind of cool. It was like Rachel doesn’t even need to be physically strong to have the emotional strength to deal with her family’s problems. I appreciated that she never turned into this crazily physically and mentally strong person, because not everybody is or can be like that in real life. It was very realistic while also still having her make a big dynamic change throughout the book in her self-confidence and familial relationships.

I also LOVED her relationship with Isaiah. Isaiah has been one of my favorite characters of the series since Pushing the Limits, and it was such a relief to finally be able to see him reach happiness. He deserves the best girl ever…and I really think that he and Rachel are perfect together 🙂 I also really enjoyed the car racing parts of this book. It’s not something that I’ve ever been interested in before, but I thought that aspect of CIY was so interesting and cool. And also nerve-racking! Drag racing is not something that I’d ever want to be a part of, but it was awesome getting to experience it through someone else’s eyes. McGarry obviously did a lot of research about cars before writing this book.

Obviously, I loved this book. I got teary-eyed, and at one point even almost threw the book across the room. Crash Into You made me emotional, which not too many books do, so clearly this is a special one. I absolutely can’t wait for Take Me On, and I really hope that we get to see Abby and Ethan’s story soon! I’m totally sold on McGarry’s writing and hope this series continues for a long, long time!

“Maybe this is what happens when you fall in love. On the outside a lighter is nothing amazing, but it holds all the ingredients that can create something wonderful. With a few pushes in the right direction, you can inspire something so brilliant that it pushes back the darkness.” 

My Rating

5 Anchors

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Take Me On Book Info

My Review

After having such good experiences reading Dare You To and Crash Into You, I was extremely excited to embark on the fourth full-length novel in this series, Take Me On. McGarry’s writing has been wildly improving with each book, so I was expecting greatness. Maybe it was that overly high expectation for this book that was my downfall, but I just didn’t love this one as much as I did the previous two.

Don’t get me wrong…this book was good, I still enjoyed it a lot. But, at least for me, it didn’t have that same special quality that I was able to find in books 2 and 3. I connected to those characters so much, yet Haley and West didn’t seem as real as the others did. I can’t pinpoint exactly what was off, but something was just not as good here.

But there were a few things that I did really appreciate. The first one being West’s amazing transformation — from Rachel’s jerky brother into someone that I actually began to have faith in. I went from wanting to punch him in the face in Crash Into You to wishing I could give him a hug and rooting for him in Take Me On. And I think that my ability to have such a change of heart about this character is a testament to McGarry’s strong writing skills.

Haley was also a dynamic character. At the beginning of the novel, she has this hard shell that she uses to keep everybody out. She has a horrible living situation and the weight of her family’s survival is solely on her shoulders. But her relationship with West breaks down those walls and allows her to come into her own, accept her situation, and even at times ask for help. Although I did have trouble relating to Haley, her transformation was equally as heartwarming as West’s, and I really liked both of their characters.

I also want to point out that one of my favorite things about this series is how completely different the personalities of each character are. McGarry now has written four novels starring eight different main characters, and not a single one of them is the same. Their voices are all completely unique and recognizable, and even the side characters have their own strong personalities as well! I’m in awe of how well McGarry is able to juggle a cast of this many characters, and I commend her ability to structure and create such different and realistic people.

One thing I didn’t really like about this book was the predominance of “evil” characters, though. There are multiple people in this book who just seem to be pure awfulness with no redeeming qualities. I’m a huge stickler of rounded-out characters, so I really wanted to know — why was Haley’s uncle so mean? Why was Haley’s ex-boyfriend such an asshole? We eventually got a little bit of an answer about why West’s dad was so awful at time, but I still think he’s kind of an awful person anyway. I just had a hard time accepting that these characters were so bad without a reason why, especially because they were such important pieces of the plot.

Ultimately, while I did enjoy this book and thought it was better than the first novel, Pushing the Limits, it didn’t quite compare to either Dare You To or Crash Into You, at least in my opinion. But I’m still definitely a McGarry fan and am excited about the fifth novel coming out this December (a continuation of Echo and Noah’s story!).

“I’m in love with you. I’m in love with you and I don’t know how to make you feel better. I’m in love with you and I shouldn’t be. I’m in love with you and once you figure out who I am, you’re not going to love me. I’m in love with you and I seem to fuck up the ones who love me back.” 

My Rating

3.5 anchors

Have you read this series? What’s your favorite book?

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3 responses to “Pushing the Limits #1–4 by Katie McGarry {SERIES Review}

  1. Oh I like that you reviewed these all in one fell swoop! My experiences with them were really similar. I wasn’t a huge fan of Pushing the Limits – I went it with really high expectations and was kind of frustrated with a number of things in it. I debated not continuing with the series, BUT I’d loved Beth in PTL and thought she had so much potential for growth. Like you, I loved Dare You To! It was a much better fit for me, and then… Crash Into You. DANG! McGarry totally hit out of the park for me with that book. I thought I’d loved DYT, but that love reached another level with CIY. I haven’t read Take Me On yet because I’m worried it won’t live up to book 2 and 3 for me. Even though it didn’t for me, your review gave me hope that I’ll still enjoy it!

    • Thanks for commenting!! I LOVE your blog, Hannah 🙂

      Haha wow, yeah, we reacted to these books exactly the same. I’ve actually never talked to anybody else who liked the series in exactly the same order as me. So hearing that you agree with me is kinda cool 🙂 I’ll be interested to hear your opinion on Take Me On!

  2. I’m the opposite to you on this one! I adored Pushing the Limits and Take Me On and while I enjoyed the other two, they just didn’t wow me as much. Overall I put the whole series as the best contemporary YA series currently out there though mostly because the characters just seem real to me and I end up going through the emotional wringer with every book.
    It was good to see them all reviewed together.

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