Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits, book #2
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source: received from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
I'm probably in the minority here, but I actually think I enjoyed Dare You To even more than Pushing the Limits. It might just be that it's been over a year since I read the first book, but I think it probably has more to do with the fact that I'm always drawn to the tough girl/nice guy scenarios. I appreciated that in this story, it was the female who had a troubled past and that for once, the guy was the clichéd virgin. Role reversal always makes for a more interesting story, in my opinion.
I found that, even though I've never been in a situation like Beth's, she was likable and easy to relate to. We all have doubts and insecurities when it comes to reasoning out why someone would be interested in us or if they have other motivations. But Beth was especially on high-alert, after being burned early on by one jock, only to have another make her the subject of his bet. Still, sometimes attraction is undeniable, even when it doesn't make sense...even when your head and heart disagree.
Ryan's character seemed almost too good to be true at times. However suspicious his intentions may have seemed to Beth, reading from his point-of-view made them almost too saccharine for my own taste, which is saying a lot because I'm all about the sweet and adorable. But then I reminded myself of the virginal baseball player that I had a crush on in high school, and well, I'll admit, this guy does exist in real life. Even so, I can see why Beth would have wondered at his motives in the beginning, though I think she doubted his feelings were legit for far too long to be considered reasonable. Almost as if she didn't want to allow herself to be happy.
Despite the bet -- thankfully, the details of which were divulged fairly early on in the story so it couldn't be used as a She's All That moment later on -- these two characters are pretty honest with each other from the start. Beth often admits when she's scared to let herself feel more for Ryan, and Ryan remains pretty open about how he feels for Beth, even when he's not entirely sure she feels the same. It's refreshing to see the lines of communication are open in this relationship, when so often, that's the downfall of a romance.
But honesty is not the only thing these kids have to contend with. Beth is trying to save her junkie of a mother and risks her own life in the process. She also has to struggle with reconnecting to the uncle that was once her closest friend and confidante. Scott was maybe my favorite aspect of the story. Beth goes from being the parental figure to being cared for (and nagged by) the uncle who's been absent from her life for more than ten years. To say that they butt heads often would be an understatement. But as they begin to reconnect, it's clear how much Scott still cares and what he'd sacrifice to see Beth happy again. There's a distinct lack of parental figures and good role models in young adult novels, and despite the fact that the parents in this story are rather useless, it's encouraging to see these kids look to other family for the guidance they need.
The author is pretty forthright with her characterizations, though I do feel she makes everything a bit too black and white where there are many shades of gray. Like, Beth really doesn't like Echo. Still. Apparently because she brought about too many changes, such as Noah deciding to abstain from drugs. But she doesn't seem to mind abstaining herself when there's a chance that it might influence Ryan's opinion of her. Drugs are bad...we get it. But does drug use have to be employed to show that Beth's old crowd is bad and her new, non-using friends are good? Especially when her closest friends weren't bad to begin with? Kids with issues does not equate to bad kids. I feel that this series tries to get that point across, but only on a case-by-case basis, sadly.
Still, I'm glad that this book was about Beth and Ryan, rather than Beth and Isaiah. After Pushing the Limits, I'd have bet money that Beth and Isaiah would end up together, but it's better this way. Isaiah would have only been an enabler. He'd have done anything to keep Beth in his life, even if it might have put them both in danger. But Ryan was more of a saving grace for Beth, putting himself in harm's way so that she might finally escape the nightmare that was her life before she arrived in Groveton.
And besides, Isaiah's getting his chance at happiness in Crash into You. And from the sounds of it, he'll be getting a girl much better suited to him. :)