Wednesday, October 10, 2012
My first book review on PUSHING THE LIMITS
PUSHING THE LIMITS, by Katie McGarry
“No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.
Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.”
From the back cover:
“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins?
His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms.
“You didn’t do that – did you? It was done to you?”
No one ever asked that question.
BUT THEY NEVER ASKED.
I’ve read many, many good books in my life, but I’ve never written any review before. Only a few lines I dropped on goodreads for the sake of keeping notes, and those cute, rambling 140 characters I left on twitter, if you could call ‘OMG, I LOVE THIS BOOK’ and another ‘OMG! OMG!’ with infinite number of exclamation marks, a review. But, this all is about to change. Here I am, writing my first book review on Pushing the Limit (PTL). To be honest, this is not a review. It’s more like a major book crush for me.
Before I start, I do apologize if I let on some spoilers, if any. That, and possibly some grammatical errors, too, since English is not my first language.
This is my first time, and I’m nervous.
I’ve heard the roar on PTL months ago. I live in a Southeast Asian country called Indonesia. At that time, I’m not sure if PTL would make it here, and I didn’t want to wait too long. So, I turned to my BFF and forever life saver in this situation, the Amazon. If Amazon was a guy, I’d have ended up marrying him.
I’ve finished reading PTL on Oct 5th, and immediately texted my declaration of love in exactly 140 characters to the author, Katie McGarry, whom was kind enough to reply. (Thank you, Katie. She replied to every single stalk-tweet I sent her. Isn’t she amazing?)
I’ve re-read PTL more than once after that, and the story tore me up every time.
What would you feel, if everything that you’ve taken for granted in your life were suddenly gone? Your parents, your siblings, your house, your confidence, your comfort zone, your sense of security? What if the roof above your head was blown away by the hurricane and you were left there facing the eye of the storm, alone?
Welcome to chaos.
Those were my thoughts after I’ve finished PTL for the first time. One has lost everything in a blink of an eye, and then fought with everything he got to take back what was his. The other one was badly betrayed by the people who were supposed to provide her security, stability, and love.
Noah is the ‘active’ character, while Echo is more on the ‘passive’. I sense a lot of arguments coming my way, but that’s how I describe them in my head.
I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter and an eldest sister of three. When I read Noah’s story, I could easily morph myself into him and feel the way he felt, act the way he acted. Noah is an impressive character, not overdone. Just perfect in his ups and downs. Jacob was wrong about one thing. Noah was stronger than Batman, honey. He was stronger than all of those Justice League and the Avengers combined.
Raised in a traditional Asian family, you could describe my upbringings close to the one Amy Chua was portraying in her Tiger Mother story. We value the bond of family more than anything. Blood relatives above everything else. In most cases, a family of many generations lives under the same roof forever. Most of us usually leave our parents’ house by the time we got married, though some don’t. The age limit for adulthood here is, I think, 21, but it is more like a number thing than the real thing. I need to highlight this because the part of the story concerning adoption, social workers, and the age of adulthood is different from where I came from.
Though I understand the 18 year old age limit and the social welfare situation described in the book, I found it quite challenging to grasp at first. It’s not Katie’s fault. It’s just that I see it from a different point of view. I kept thinking, why could they just adopt all of them in the first place? Why separated them? What is the deal with foster homes/families? And why Noah couldn’t live in a home with other teenagers? As much as I understand that the rigid system is designed to protect the innocence from getting hurt, it sometimes also “protects" them against the love they deserve. These restrictions had helped protecting Echo from the people who hurt her, but it was different in Noah’s case.
The scene when Noah was denied access to sooth Jacob from his nightmare, or many occasions with Tyler, was heart shattering. Hell, he was not allowed to be in the same room with his brothers? He was not allowed any information about the whereabouts and the well being of his brothers? As I said, I feel Noah to my very core. I’d die if someone separated me from my kids, or my family.
The part when Echo craved her mother’s presence, even if it was only in a form a phone call, was a little saddening, too. From a child’s point of view, a mother is still a mother.
The author’s capability in evoking every emotion through the life of these two teenagers is beyond words. Genius.
Every system made on the face of this Earth is inhuman, thus I’m so glad that Katie brought in Mrs. Collins to humanize it. This is what it’s all about. Everything is about the people. System is like a house, designed to protect the habitants, but it’s the people who live in that house who are responsible in bringing in the warmth and the love into their lives. Katie did a brilliant job in touching this particular issue, so that I -who has a limited understanding of US legal system and possibly its culture - could share this universal value.
The writing in this book is simply smart. Fresh. Perfect in every scenes. And I’m not exaggerating.
The suspense is built in healthy pace. I love authors who write their story logically, not dragging it like some sort of soap opera. In short, Katie is realistic. As in real life, you can’t always use beautiful words to describe your day. Sometimes you got to be shitty when the situation called for one.
The other thing I love about this book is that the author respects her audience’s intelligence by NOT repeating the physical’s perfectness of the characters in every paragraph excessively. (Yes, Anastasia Steel, we got how soul-shattering gorgeous Christian Grey is, in and out of the bedroom. You don’t have to sigh and faint all the way up to book 3. You, too, Bella Swan. *pause* What book was I talking about? Oh, yes…)
How about the romance? Ah, the romance. It has everything you ever need in YA. The jealousy, the vulnerability, the dance, the protective friends, the peer pressure, the virginity issue, the sacrifice, the break-up, the make-up, the kissing... And, yes, it does remind me that high school could be a scary phase for teens.
I love every single chapter in this book. But, if I have to choose, these are my most favorite parts of the book :
“I just want my family back.” This page was soaking wet with my salt water. I almost tore it away, framed and hung it in my bedroom’s wall. If my husband didn’t glare at me, I think I would. OMG, Katie. And here comes the notorious exclamation marks. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“How could you abandon me?”
If I picture Noah from multiple angles, I can only see Echo from my view as a parent. I hate all the adults in her life. I actually cheered and clapped when Echo was finally confronting them. I need to see Echo letting her anger go. Full blast. If I see Noah as a rock – strong, steady and dependable - I see Echo as a lost puppy. She was betrayed, put second by the people who were supposed to protect her. The way she kept questioning what went wrong with her, why she wasn’t loved, whether or not she was crazy, almost killed me. Don’t get me wrong. Echo is a strong girl. Much stronger than any of other female characters I’ve ever read. Though Echo’s story ended up perfectly, I have to admit, I hate the part when she visited her father and Ashley in the hospital. The bitchy part of me screams, ‘You’re too nice, Echo. They deserve less.’ But Echo wouldn’t be Echo if she did what I wanted her to do.
Again, this is where Katie’s writing is superb. You can’t change a person’s character overnight. Echo’s father was still Echo’s father, a flawed parent.
“But I’d never forgive myself if I was the reason you didn’t get yours.”
I had to stop for a few seconds to let my breathing back to normal. I have nothing to say on this part. Seriously, Katie? I don’t remember I’ve ever cried this much after the Titanic movie.
“I’m proud of you, Noah.”
The reply Noah said after that sentence is bittersweet for me. Seeing your kid going through all assortments of hell to reach a certain step of maturity hurts, no matter how necessary those steps are.
The main characters are strong. But they wouldn’t be this strong without the help of the solid supporting characters. I’d love to have a sister like Beth. Let me amend that. I meant biker chick, fierce loving, very s-o-b-e-r Beth. I can’t wait to read her story in Katie’s next book. I’m undeniably having a crush on Isaiah.
But, as I said earlier, I ended up connecting myself more to Noah than to Echo. Not that Echo’s character is less interesting. No, believe me, she is not. Perhaps my background has something to do with this. With Echo, I got the vibe, the message, everything. But with Noah, it’s like taking a 4D ride, guaranteed all senses challenged. It is Noah’s personal multiple dimension roller coaster. His bad-boy-smart-ass attitude is so charming, it breaks my heart.
The end of Noah’s story in PTL is perfect too. He deserves it more than anyone else. One word kind of nags my brain, though. And it has something to do with my incomplete understanding of the legal system there.
When Joe offered his third option, why did he sound … so legal? What with the word ‘visitation’? He was, if I understood correctly, offering a family to Noah, right? Where I live, it’s less formal than this. We’d say, ‘You become a part of this family. Come anytime you want.’ It’s a two way street kind of thing, not one way.
Though Katie has written it clearly in the last chapter on how things were going to be for Noah, I found myself staring at the words “…possibly love me, too.”
Possibly? What do you mean by possibly?
It’s just, after everything that’s happened with Noah, I want him to get his 1000% HEA. I want him to have and receive all kind of love that he was missing earlier.
Please, Katie, please, could you please just whisper it in my ear the confirmation I’m desperately seeking?
How about definitely? Obviously? Unconditionally, one hundred percent love me, too?
Please? Please? I need the confirmation badly so I could go to sleep at night frown-less.
I’m quite sure Katie officially, obviously, definitely, 1000% hates me right now :( for being so pushy.
In summary, this book, along with Tammara Webber’s Easy, has taken a permanent residency in my bedside table and in my oversized bag, replacing last month’s incumbents John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Tracey Graves’s On the Island. I tweeted this information to Katie once :) , in which she kindly replied. (Isn’t she awesome? Oh yes, I’ve said that earlier). I’ve signed up to be her fan for life.
I like to bring good books around with me, so that I can easily show them to my friends or colleagues. Nothing pleases me more than to share a wonderful book among friends and spread the author’s awesomeness around some more. I understand that both Easy and PTL are currently not available in Indonesia’s bookstores yet. I hope they will be soon. If not, just click that buying button on the Amazon. You won’t regret it.
Now, if only I could get Katie to sign my PTL copy….
October 10th, 2012