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It’s been happening so frequently lately – I just want to like the book more than I actually do. Now, don’t get me wrong. Pushing the Limits wasn’t terrible. If you go for that whole bad boy/good girl thing, you’ll probably like it. If you’re caught up in the current trend of popular girls falling from their thrones, only to be taken in by guys from the wrong side of the tracks, you’ll probably like it. But if you like your characters to have some substance, to make reasonable decisions and find themselves in realistic situations, you’ll probably feel the same way I did.

Pushing the Limits is about Echo Emerson, formerly popular, now at the bottom of the social totem pole after a horrible night she can’t even remember. Her over-protective father keeps her on a tight leash and her new stepmother (formerly her nanny) makes things worse with every word she says.

Noah Hutchins used to have it all, but then his parents died in a tragic fire. Now he’s lost everything – he was separated from his brothers and shuffled between foster homes. He smokes weed, he drinks, he and the people he hangs out with now aren’t exactly the kind of people you can take home to your grandma. There isn’t a single adult in his life concerned with his well-being.

Echo and Noah are thrown together by a new clinical social worker placed at the school. They begin their tutoring sessions on a strictly professional basis (though neither of them particularly want to be there), but they soon become friends, conspiring to get into their thick files to find out what they need to know. For Echo, it’s the details of the night she can’t remember. For Noah, it’s the location of his brothers. As they conspire to help each other out, their feelings grow and soon they’re inseparable. But being from such different worlds, can they make it work?

I can’t put my finger on what I just didn’t like about this book. I guess that, in general, I didn’t think it was well-written. It wasn’t realistic. And, really, for trying to be such a sexy YA novel, it was pretty childish.

I rolled my eyes, heavily sighed, and/or groaned in disgust every time Noah referred to Echo as his “nymph,” his “siren,” or his “goddess.” This was not sexy. It was unrealistic, and honestly, kind of gross. They barely knew each other when he started using these words to describe her. Add to that his constant descriptions of the way she looked, and I walked away with the impression of a possessive jerk who’s only after Echo for her body (and her cinnamon sugar smell).

Noah’s custody battle? Insane. What judge is going to grant custody to a teenage boy who is barely passing his classes, working a low-paying (part-time) job, and well-known for smoking pot, drinking, and using women? Especially when the children in question are in a loving, supportive foster home with foster parents they actually like! That the foster parents would even see Noah as a threat was insane and absolutely unrealistic. That anybody in Noah’s life would encourage him to pursue custody almost pushed me over the edge.

The situation with Echo’s scars was similarly ridiculous. Why did every adult in her life unanimously agree to keep her in the dark? Echo doesn’t remember a single thing that happened that night – she only knows that she’s covered in scars and forbidden to see her mother anymore. The scars impact her daily life to the point where she isolates herself from her friends, wears long sleeves and gloves even in the middle of summer, and can’t even sleep at night. AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHERE THEY CAME FROM. The adults in her life are absolutely horrific – don’t get me started on the fact that Echo, a nearly full-grown woman, needs to ask permission from her father to take her prescribed medication.

Finally, we come to Echo’s mother. Echo repeatedly states that she loves her mother, misses her mother, wishes she could see her mother, but she has a difficulty remembering any good times they had together. Echo remembers hiding from her mother – locked in closets with her older brother – because she would become so out of control. She knows that her mother is to blame for her scars, and although she doesn’t remember why, she still constantly pursues the idea of being reunited with her. Her mother’s mental illness is used as an excuse for making her an absolutely terrible parent, concerned only about herself and never apologizing for all the pain and heartache she’s caused for her daughter. (view spoiler) 

Overall, I had more problems with the second half of the book than with the first. I don’t want to detail them all and scare off potential readers who might enjoy this book, because I’m getting old and crotchety and probably would have liked this book a lot more when I was the same age as the characters. As I said before, I just wasn’t the target audience for this one. All in all, I’m disappointed, and after thinking about it for a couple days, I’m lowering my original rating from three stars to two stars.

Final rating: ★