Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: 31st July
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
'The worst type of crying wasn't the kind that everyone else could see - the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that still survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.
"Come here, baby." And with my words, Echo leaned into me: soft, pliant, broken. "You're not alone," I whispered into her hair as I cradled her in my arms. "You're not alone, because you have me." And I love you, more than you could ever know.'
I sit here now, writing this, not bouncing and giddy with excitement, but quiet, stunned, astounded by the impact of the book that currently sits on the floor next to me. It looks so innocent with its grey cover and the faces of Noah and Echo. It pretends to be just a book, nothing more than a few hundred typed-up pages bound together. Nothing more than paper and ink. And yet, when you open it up to the first page, only seconds go by before that pretence is shrugged off and you become ensnared in world that, pretty soon, you have no desire to leave.
The story is simple. Echo has scars on her arms from a night that she can't remember. Overnight she turned from popular to freak. Her father is a controlling tyrant and her stepmother's due to have a baby. Anyone who knows anything refuses to tell her what happened. Noah is in foster care, separated from his brothers. His parents are dead. He'll do whatever it takes to get his brothers back. Both of them want normal. Both agree to help the other. What neither of them count on is falling in love.
It sounds straightforward and yet it's anything but. McGarry brings to life a world centred around two people who are broken beyond belief. My heart bleeds for them both. With everything that's happened to them in their lives they're left with almost no-one they can trust; the whole time all I wanted was to be able to cross the barrier between reality and fiction, look them in the eye and say, 'I'm here for you.' I wanted to be there for them, to be one more person they could count on. And that right there sums up what makes this author so amazing. She has the ability to take two fictional characters and their lives, and make it all so real. This reaction, this sense of wanting to support the characters, is something I've felt with few books, and never so strong.
Echo undergoes a massive transformation in the book, and the unfolding of it is both clear and a joy to see. She flourishes from being this girl who avoids confrontation into someone who stands up for herself and goes after the life she deserves. Her pain and frustration cut into me, yet her father remained oblivious. Honestly, this man made me so angry. All he did was keep Echo on a leash. He didn't even try to understand what she must be going through and how she must feel. Any love or affection was focused on her stepmother and the baby, meaning that Echo always came second place. When I found out the whole truth of what happened the night Echo got her scars...I couldn't believe it. Really I thought that the ending was too easy on them. Echo went through so much and they barely suffered. Her actual mother, too, was sadly pathetic. Somehow Echo managed to be more than this despite her family: she still had strength, and this courage contintued to grow the whole way through. Basically her entire character, everything she felt, everything she went through...it broke my heart.
Noah Hutchins only filled me with more grief, more pain...more love. I suppose when you look at him on the surface, he appears to be a bad-boy. But he's really not. And I'm not going to call him one. This is a guy who, for most of his life, has only known pain and betrayal. All he wants out of life is for his family to be back together. I can't tell you how moving it was to watch him fight for his brothers, to see the relationship he had with them. And like Echo, he grows tremendously. He's intelligent, fierce, he has integrity; so many qualities which very few people outside of Echo see. As for the relationship between them, it was...incredible. The pacing of it was very well done and the chemistry between them was there in heaps. They really do seem to complete one another, and help each other in ways no-one else ever could. Theirs is the most complex, heart-breaking, heart-warming of relationships.
Somehow I've managed to write a coherent review, yet none of these words are adequate enough to describe how much I loved this book; none of them are adequate enough to fully explain what it is that makes this book so incredible. Pushing the Limits honestly made a toy of my heart: it broke it, ripped it, glued the pieces back together, overfilled it with emotion, broke it again. A book like that needs to be experienced more than just told about. You need to fall in love with Echo and Noah for yourself; you need to love Isaiah, smile at Mrs Collins, hate Echo's father. Only then will you see why this has succeeded in becoming my absolute favourite read of 2012, and one that will never leave either my head or my heart.