Published: July 2012
Pushing the Limits involves Echo, a traumatized teen who just made her return to school after time off from an incident with her mother that involved the courts and a restraining order. Since Echo has repressed the memory of "the incident," all she has left are severe scars on her arms. She's deemed a freak, even by herself. A new school counselor challenges Echo to safely explore her repressed memories to work through the trauma. At this same time, she meets bad-boy Noah, a foster kid who's also working through his issues with the school counselor. Echo is assigned as Noah's tutor, and they clash from the start. But Noah's not afraid of Echo's scars or her past, and it changes his perspective of her.
Comparison's to Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series are inevitable; Echo is popular but flawed, just like Brittany, and Noah is the bad boy with a past, much like Alex, and the two are even paired together in a science class. Check out the cover comparison. And I have to say, Perfect Chemistry's Alex Fuentes is pretty hard to beat. He's such a great YA character that felt real to me the whole time. Noah was like Alex on the surface but lacked some of the charm, and some of his internal thoughts seemed too mature or he spoke stilted dialogue which didn't match what I expected from a kid like him.
However, the strengths of Pushing the Limits is the foster care and therapy angle, which is why I continued reading. I was glad to see a positive social worker in the mix, even if some of the foster care stuff bordered on melodrama (abuse and neglect in the foster homes, a few cliches). Echo is easy to sympathize with, and I definitely rooted for her to find confidence again after uncovering what happened with her mother. It was heartbreaking at times to see her devotion to a mother who abused her, even if the reason was mental illness. Sadder still was her father and his new wife who wanted to protect her with structure and pretending like life was normal.
This is an edgy romance that I see as appealing for fans of Simone Elkeles.