Since Perfect Chemistry is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, I thought I would enjoy Katie McGarry’s work. Unfortunately this book was so cloying and melodramatic I just wanted to scrub it from my mind once I finished.
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.
Let’s start with the semi-good. The relationship between Noah and his brother was the most interesting part of the book. The whole fostering/adoption storyline was written, like everything else, in such a way as to try to manipulate an emotional response from the reader. However, it did attempt to convey how difficult and painful it must be to watch what’s left of your family become part of a new one without you. That being said, Noah certainly didn’t help his case. Instead of acting responsibly and trying to take steps to build a life where he could eventually be considered a suitable guardian, he does the complete opposite.
After initially being intrigued by Echo’s scars, I got frustrated the longer we were left in the dark. The secret of what happened to her seemed overly drawn out and anti-climatic once everything was finally revealed. I would have preferred more time spent on Echo actually dealing with her trauma and the reader getting to know her mother (who only appears briefly near the end and isn’t painted in the best light, given that she is mentally ill). The complex relationship between Echo and her mother wasn’t explored as it should have been, which was disappointing.
Unfortunately, the book spends far too much time on the ‘romance’, which I didn’t care for in the slightest. I was really turned off by the constant pet names (“siren”, “nymph”, “seductress”) and the way Noah talked was particularly cringe-worthy. Noah is clearly meant to be the ‘bad boy’ with hidden depths in need of a ‘good woman’ to get him on the straight and narrow, but in reality he’s just an asshole. No amount of simpering over Echo is going to make me like him.
Aside from Noah’s fear of loosing his younger brothers, everything else in Pushing the Limits feels overwrought and angst-ridden simply for drama’s sake, instead of taking the opportunity for a nuanced look at mental illness, the effects of trauma, domestic abuse and the foster system.
*Many thanks to NetGalley, HarlequinTEEN and Mira Ink for sending me a copy for review*