“Pushing the Limits” is a solid coming of age, romantic story between two teens who have some very major issues to contend with. Noah and Echo swing in very different social circles but have more colliding points together than they thought possible. They see the same school therapist and both want in on their private files to deal with some very personal issues – Noah dealing with his fragmented family while Echo struggles to remember an attack that shook her world for quite some time. The two find themselves connecting in ways they never thought possible, though at the same time have to struggle to keep themselves from being pulled apart, by the elements around them as well as each other.
When I consider the collective whole of the story, I liked it. There’s a part of me, at first, that struggled to figure out why I didn’t love this story, because its right up my alley in terms of the kind of story I like – dealing within a contemporary environment, dealing with some very tough issues for the teen characters told within, not necessarily having the most likable characters yet allowing one to get inside their heads for a time, and showing a growing point where the characters come to terms with their issues and even find love for each other. The familiar structure/elements of the story really didn’t bother me at all as I was reading this.
So what was the problem?
I found in retrospect, I could easily say what my issues were with the story. For one, it was probably about 100 pages too long. The story’s more drawn out for the drama and relationships aspects than it should’ve been, though I appreciated some of the scenes that provided the development of the characters. Still, Echo’s revelation about the night she didn’t remember and how she came to have the scars could’ve come sooner than it did while still having an impact. As well, I think Noah could’ve come to terms with his brothers’ custody situation among other matters much sooner than he did, and it still could’ve had a potent impact. There were many excessive betweens that could’ve been eliminated from the story and “Pushing the Limits” could’ve still had the same potency and development in both the relationship aspects and the tough issues it chooses to tackle in Echo and Noah’s narratives. That excess slowed the story momentum quite a bit for me (though I have to admit I was invested in the characters enough to compulsively continue).
One of the other issues in this is repetition. This came across in more than a few elements in the book. Noah called Echo “baby” way, way, way too many times for comfort in this book. I like terms of endearment, I don’t even really have a problem with “baby”. (Kind of made me think of the story behind TLC’s song “Baby, Baby, Baby”, and that made me smile, but that’s a random tangent.) But when you’re reading it for so many times, even if it is realistically what Noah would probably say in those situations, it becomes too distracting. Even some of the romantic moments between Noah and Echo were repeated (i.e. Noah cornering Echo with his body).
Noah and Echo themselves, as characters, were decent to me. I started off with qualms about how they would develop, but when I started seeing their vulnerabilities and personality traits for what they were, I was in for the long haul. I didn’t love them, but I was able to connect with them in their moments of bliss and heartache. There are some very potent emotional blows this story has to deliver, and for the most part, I actually thought it was good. It held me, but the distracting elements of the length, drawn out drama, and repetition of the story distracted me, and I couldn’t think of it as being more than what it was, a decent read.
Even so, this would be a book I’d recommend for YA contemporary romances readers with a focus on tough subjects. It’s engaging and certainly worth reading, though with some noted caveats.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin/HarlequinTeen.