Tag Archives: Pushing the Limits

Discussion: From Appropriate to Taboo: Where to draw the line in YA

In the spirit of Banned Books Week (and the fact that my Top Ten Tuesday was horribly boring this week), I decided to stir the pot a bit with a discussion post. Here I want to ask the age old question: How far is too far when it comes to young adult novels?

You know what I’m talking about – the sex, the drugs, the drinking, the swearing. They all play a major part in our lives, obviously for some more than others, and despite the controversy, also in the lives of teenagers. I often wonder if I were to write a book, how would I feel on including these controversial subjects? Would I sensor myself in order to reach a wider audience and younger teens? Would I have a tell-it-like-it-is attitude and keep my novel gritty and heavy? Obviously this is going to vary from author to author and the reception of this will vary from reader to reader. Technically, there is no right or wrong answer on exactly what is appropriate for young adult readers and what is not, and I’m more so talking about the inclusion of these elements in general, not quite the severity of them (I think the majority of us can agree that graphic sex scenes, rampant cursing, and very heavy drug use is generally inappropriate for teen novels. This is meant as an interesting and fun discussion so please understand what I mean when I’m talking about what’s “appropriate” to include in YA).

Swearing: 
I don’t know about you guys, but I swore like a sailor as a teen (I guess I still do. Oops). A lot of times there are ways to avoid using curse words to make a book a little less harsh in language and a little more friendly to the younger teens (I’m not a parent, but I would venture to guess the parents would be happier about this too). The best example I have right now for this Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’m in the middle of the audiobook (gotta love Wil Wheaton’s narration…) and I’m actually quite surprised at not only the frequency but the selection of curse words throughout the book. Now it doesn’t bother me in the least – if anything, it enhances the story for me a bit because it makes it seem more real. With plenty of surprising moments, bouts of frustration and anger, etc, swearing not only seems appropriate but naturally how I would react in these situations too. I can easily see where people would say it’s too much an unnecessary. For my tastes, it really works with the story. Another thing to think about here is that the main character Wade is also eighteen. It’s not like this is a book where the main characters are on the younger side of adolescence. If they were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen year-olds, I’d actually say the cursing would be a bit excessive for what I’d like to read from that age group. Obviously this is all my personal opinion, but for me, it fits. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to see that it really depends on the age range of the characters and the age range of the target audience that seems to be swaying me in either direction. Another example that comes to mind is Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne. Emmy has quite a different approach to swearing in her book: if ever it’s a “harsher” curse word, she actually censored the characters herself. Sometimes it was just “Screw you” or “you’re such a jerk” instead of the more crass language. A lot of the time, that actually took away from the story for me because it felt so unnatural. If I was that angered to the point of insulting someone and yelling, let’s face it. I’m not gonna use the word “jerk”. When the actual swear words were used, it was the bare bones of the swear and letting us fill in the rest of the letters to figure it out. From this method, I would guess that the target audience for Monument 14 may be a younger one and this would be a way to stretch the audience down to younger teens, even pre-teens considering we have characters that range from around 5 years old to 18; but then comes my issue with that balance. Throughout the book, we also have teen drinking (and a lot of it by the “cool” kids), nudity, sex, and violence (although the violence isn’t severe). So then I was left with the question, how subjective are one of these “taboos” to another? Personally I thought it was pointless to censor the swearing if we’re also reading about underage drinking, sex, and teenage fantasies. I thought those ranked a bit more severe on the taboo scale, but of course, that’s just another opinion. Which leads us to….

Sex:
Sex in high school was kind of a non-issue for me. I didn’t really have any relationships that lasted in high school so I was never really in that situation and I never had to think about it. I guess if I had to say how I felt about it back then, it was towards the negative side because I heard the negative stories: the wild parties, the teenage pregnancies, etc. So when I read YA books where the characters are sexually active or losing their virginity, I’m never quite sure what to make of it. Okay, here’s my confession: I was raised fairly conservatively and despite the mass amounts of movies and TV shows where sex is no big thing and everyone’s doing it in high school, it wasn’t like that for me. I grow a bit hesitant at the amount of young adult books I read with the same kind of situations. Is sex included because that’s the ultimate step to take as a teenager? That’s how you know the characters have finally committed to each other and fallen in love? I can see some books including it, but I’m afraid at just how many there are out there that all included a sex scene with their characters at 16, 17, or 18 years old. I don’t want to bring up books that may result in spoilers so I’ll try to use more familiar ones, like the Twilight series. I was crazy surprised that part of the main theme in Eclipse/Breaking Dawn is sex. Let’s be real: That’s the main reason Bella even marries Edward, right? Let’s get married so we can have sex? It didn’t seem like she really wanted to marry him otherwise (especially the way they portrayed it in the movie! I haven’t read the books in a while so that part is a little fuzzy). Am I right in saying that at least a little bit? And then Breaking Dawn happens and okay, so they’re married at this point, but the big moment finally happens and Bam! Immediate pregnancy. I guess that does really set up the plot for the rest of the book, but still. You just barely graduated high school, throwing away the college experience, begging to be a vampire just so you’re A) not older than your boyfriend by one year and B) so you can get it on. I don’t know. The more I think about it, the sillier it sounds. And don’t get me wrong – the Twilight series is still one of my favorites, but when I really stop to think about it, you can’t deny that sex shaped the entire second half of this series. Another series I loved but was still left with my jaw-dropped: The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano. When I finished Wither, I was so excited to finish and really, really enjoyed the book, but at the same time, I was slightly appalled in a way. Whatever crazy mutation that this was that killed boys at 25 and girls at 20 (okay, what virus is really that specific and could really do that? – I overlooked it…) created a crazy teenage pregnancy break out. In order to keep the human race alive, there has to be teen pregnancy. Some of these girls are picked as young as they can so they can produce the most amount of babies for their teenage husbands, and poor little Cecily who is either 13 or 14 in Wither (I think maybe she turns 14 in the book?) is the first to get pregnant. And she’s excited for it. Wait, what? I mean, when I stop and think about it, I’m not sure how I ended up liking this book so much because how is that okay in any way? But again, this theme is something that shaped the entire plot of the whole series.
There are plenty of others of my favorites where the guy and the girl finally get together and then have sex. And sometimes, as much as I’ve loved the book, I just roll my eyes. Is sex always necessary to prove that this relationship is valid? For me, sometimes it’s the absence of sex that makes the book even better. I love the slow burn relationships and the sexual tension that pulls you along the whole story – and the characters don’t even have to hook up to make for a great ending – and sometimes I think that’s even better writing than having them jump in the sack together. Perfect example: I just finished Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and it instantly became one of my favorite books and one of my favorite literary relationships. No sexy times involved there (in the euphemistic sense…. because there were PLENTY of sexy moments between Anna and Etienne) and honestly, I think it was so great and perfect without the two of them hooking up.

Alcohol/Drugs: 
Another thing we can’t deny is part of the lives of teenagers is the presence of drugs and alcohol, although I’d say more often alcohol. I still frowned upon drugs pretty hard when I was in high school (again with the conservative upbringing), but I’d say by junior and senior year, the vast majority of kids were breaking into their parents liquor cabinets and having their older siblings buy them some booze. I’d say alcohol and some forms of drug use (I guess most commonly marijuana) are bound to slip their way into young adult fiction because they really are that present in so many people’s social circles. For me, I’d say their presence in YA books aren’t quite as controversial to me when it’s the “upperclassmen” (junior and senior aged high school kids) drinking and smoking pot. I think it’s fair to say that drug use more than marijuana isn’t commonly seen in YA lit (at least I can’t think of drug use like that in books that I’ve read – let me know if you have) due to the fact that once drugs like that are introduced into the story, I think the story immediately takes on a much more serious and controversial tone that aren’t necessarily relevant to the plot at hand. Alcohol, however, plays a much stronger role. It’s what makes the classic party scene and seems much less taboo to include. I was actually quite surprised to see such a strong presence of drugs and alcohol in one of my favorite books, Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins. The story goes that Anna is a nephilim of one of the Dukes (that is to say, a higher demon) and along with others that represent the Seven Deadly Sins, Anna’s father is the Duke of substance abuse. His job as a demon is to lure people into alcohol and drug abuse and Anna as the super-innocent Southern girl has never touched the stuff. So long story short, we see Anna get familiar with these substances, learn how to control them, and has the classic battle between good and evil and whether to lead these people astray or keep them clean. I actually found the plot line extremely interesting, but really, once we were talking about serious drugs and those drugs showed up on the scene (although not actively used by the characters), it still brought up a serious turn in the tone of the book for me. It was instantly transformed into something that was just a little bit darker and a little bit more for “maturer” audiences (for lack of a better word). In Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, the pot usage by Noah and his tight group of friends didn’t really seem that off-putting. It’s a lot more common to see that show up, even among teenage crowds. Not to say I’m always in favor of its presence in YA novels, but I think it’s much more acceptable – in a way – than any other drugs. Then as far as alcohol goes, I think that’s a very real part of teenage life, like it or not. Where I think it really starts to get taboo is the age of the alcohol drinker. Like I had mentioned earlier, the norm for the kids that I knew at that age  was drinking at 17 and 18 years old. I think if the drinkers in the story are younger than 17 (for me at least) it starts to cross a line a little more and begins to raise red flags   the younger the drinkers get. I think I start to feel uncomfortable when the main characters are under 17 and drinking. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my personal experience so I’m interested to see what other people have to say about that!

This turned into quite the long winded post so I’ll start to wrap it up. All of these situations are clearly my personal opinions – and really, that’s what makes all of these situations so touchy. Everyone has their own personal experiences that shape their reading experiences as well. What’s taboo for one person is on the fence for another and is crossing the line for the next. It’s really all on the perception of the reader. I’m sure my opinion (as a 20-something) on these topics can vary extremely from someone who is a parent and has children who are reading the same books, as well as varying quite a bit from the actual teen. Mostly I’m really interested to hear what you guys think! I know a lot of us are adults reading YA novels because they’re fun, there are so many great ones being published, and they’re so enjoyable. So here are my questions for you:

How do you feel about these topics?
How controversial do you find them?
If you’re a parent, how do these themes affect how you feel towards the books?
Would you tell your kids not to read any books because of these themes?
Do any one of these elements turn you off from a book just because of their 
presence? 

Let me know anything I missed, any opinions you want to throw at me, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!!

Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarryTitle: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry
Publishing Info: July 31, 2012 by Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 20, 2012

    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.

Breaking It Down Further: After a tragic incident with her mother that she repressed in her mind, Echo Emerson finds it hard to return to her normal life. She can’t remember how she got the scars on her arms and everyone at school treats her like a total outcast because of them. The more Echo withdraws, the more she feels lost and desperate to find out what really happened to her. Noah Hutchins tells his own story as well – typical bad boy with a bad rep. Although his reputation is mostly true, Noah has a dark past that put him there but now more than ever it’s important for him to clean up his act a bit to reunite with his brothers who are in a separate foster home. When Echo & Noah’s worlds collide, it quickly becomes hard to fight the attraction until the two become more than they ever imagined.

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Hm. Well. Let’s start with my overall opinion: I really did enjoy reading PUSHING THE LIMITS. I felt like it was a different kind of contemporary YA romance and we actually had a little bit of mystery with Echo’s secret story about what really happened between her and her mother. I really did pick up on the chemistry between Echo and Noah. I was a little afraid at first since Echo was a formerly popular girl (I don’t know why that bothered me, but for some reason it did a little – Maybe overkill on the polar opposites?), but Echo actually seemed pretty normal aside from the trauma that she went through.

I actually really enjoyed tons of aspects of this book (even though I’m about to complain a lot). I really liked the story line a lot! Echo’s story was really interesting and I really didn’t know where that little mystery was going. The relationship between Echo and Noah was pretty much instant physical attraction, but there was a nice lead up to their actual relationship and I liked that it didn’t jump into things too fast.

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Echo: I was actually just a smidge annoyed with Echo? Yeah, that’s a question. Even after the whole book, I still don’t know how I feel about her. I felt like she put too much blame on other people for how her life turned out. I mean, I know it wasn’t her fault for whatever happened with her mom, and even though we don’t know what the incident was throughout the book, we do know that Echo was indeed a victim of the situation and she’s not at fault. But I felt like the whole book she was searching for someone to blame and sometimes it put me off a bit that she was so mean to her dad and step-mom (I felt bad for poor Ashley the whole book). It seemed a little “typical teenager” that okay yes, you do have a hard life, no one’s denying that, but time to face it.
Noah: I liked Noah a lot more. He has a tragic past as well, but he’s already been dealing it for years and we see the hardened exterior of Noah throughout the book and Echo actually softens his personality up a bit. We know he’s got a really passionate side for his friends and family and I really loved seeing that side of him. The only thing that really bothered me about Noah (and yes it really bothered me) was all of the “Noah-isms” that Katie McGarry used for him over and over. It was way to repetitive to hear him call Echo his siren/nymph constantly and I’m sorry if anyone out there uses this, but I hate hearing couples call each other “baby”. Babe is fine. Cute even. Baby irritates the hell out of me. I know, I know personal rant, but it’s stupid stuff like that that really does make a difference when I’m reading. Baby just seems so insincere to me so to hear Noah call Echo “baby” just seemed like he was belittling her because that’s how I see the word.
Ashley: I actually did feel bad for step-mom/former nanny Ashley! I think she got treated way too harshly by Echo. I guess I didn’t feel as bad for her dad because it’s easier to be mad or to be mean to family and “get away with it” so to speak, but even though Echo saw Ashley as someone who broke up her family, I could really see Ashley’s side and I felt like we as readers knew she was a good person at heart and never intended it.
Supporting Characters: I actually think some of the secondary characters stole the show for me and really made the book that much better. If they weren’t in the story, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Noah is still one of my favorite characters, but here’s my shout out to the secondaries that made it a much deeper and beautiful novel: the great Mrs. Collins, Noah’s brothers, Isaiah, Beth, Lila, step-mom Ashley

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Try it

I feel bad that this review somehow ended up being a lot more complaining than I anticipated… I guess all those things really just got under my skin! I thought about rating it 3.5 stars since apparently I found to many negatives, but I actually really did like reading the story quite a bit and would recommend it to people. Really, really great story. I actually felt kind of like I was watching a movie instead of reading. I think almost anyone will read this and really enjoy it.

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Pushing The Limits Read-Along: Week 5

It’s week five of the Pushing the Limits read-along!

This event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms. Here’s the breakdown from the hosts themselves: For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
Here are the fifth week’s questions:­­

1. By finally returning to her art, Echo is working through her issues and taking control of her life. While she’s not ever going to return to her previous “normal”, she uses her art as a way to work her way to a place where she’s more comfortable with herself. How do you deal with the issues and stresses of your life?
I usually talk to my sister and/or boyfriend about anything and everything! Music also helps me a lot. At any given time, really, there’s always a perfect song for something!

2. Once Noah gives his brothers and their soon-to-be adoptive parents a happy ending, he decides to get his own by winning Echo back. Why does he think stealing her file is the best way to do it? Any other (better) suggestions for the poor boy?
He’s still trying to help her and give her the answers she’s looking for. Sometimes I think he doesn’t really know how to do it any other way! He also seems like someone who shows people and isn’t quite the best with words!

3. Echo finally uncovers the terrible truth of what her mother did to her. Now that we know the truth, do you think Echo’s father did the right thing by covering up the incident and keeping it from her? How do you think he should have handled it?
It’s a really tricky situation that I don’t think anyone really handled well. It was a hard thing to revel to Echo in any way once her mind had repressed the incident. You don’t really want to just go out and tell her and her mind did get “broken” once after trying to help her remember the first time around. I don’t think, however, that actually hiding it from her was the right thing to do. He should have helped her and encouraged her to seek help and slowly help her come back around instead of trying to put it all in the past and hush it up.

4. Mrs. Collins plays an integral role in helping Echo and Noah find a new normal and happiness in their lives. Tell us about someone in your life who helped you, someone who changed your life, was there for you, or offered help/comfort when you most needed it (or when you didn’t know you needed it).
Firstly, I just loved Mrs. Collins. She was such a great force in this book and it would have been totally lacking something without her.
As cheesy as it sounds, I really give my boyfriend a lot of credit for helping me get to a better place in my life even though I didn’t know I needed it (and I haven’t really told him that either because I never wanted to admit I wasn’t really in the best place). I was hanging around with a lot of people who were a ton of fun, but it was still the college crowd that I used to hang out with every weekend and go to the bars, playing our fair share of drinking games, etc. I really wasn’t making the wisest decisions – not dangerous decisions, but I was putting a lot of strain on my body by going out every weekend and maybe still trying to live out college even after it was over. He just really grounded me and it kind of opened my eyes to how my life actually affects other people and not just myself. I’ve been so much happier and much more relaxed ever since we started dating! 🙂

5. Another major truth is revealed when Echo’s father finally opens up to his daughter and tells her about her mother and how his relationship with Ashley evolved. Knowing this, how do you feel about Ashley now? And what did you think when you learned the name of the baby?
I always thought Ashley was treated too harshly! I understand why Echo was upset about her and I’m so glad in the end that she finally got to see a different side of her and realize that she’s not an enemy. Sure, it’ll still take work, but I saw a lot of hope for their relationship to develop!
And awwww, the baby. I liked the name! I think it was a great choice.

6. Echo and Noah ride off into the sunset together. *happy sigh* If you had the chance, who would you ride off with and where would you go?
Oh, you guys and your silly questions. I’m hoping there’s a sunset with ring in my not-too-distant but not quite immediate future. Possibly within the next year or so I’m hoping for a certain question! I feel stupid talking about it since it hasn’t even happened yet, but it’s somewhere out there in the future for me!

Pushing The Limits Read-Along: Week 4

It’s week four of the Pushing the Limits read-along!

This event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms. Here’s the breakdown from the hosts themselves: For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
Here are the fourth week’s questions:
  1. ­­At a certain moment, Echo tells Noah that she feels safe with him. Echo thinks that because of this comforting feeling, she may be able to finally have a full night of peaceful sleep. Why do you think it is important for Echo to feel safe? And why no one else but Noah has been able to provide this to Echo?
    Answer: Seems like Echo hasn’t felt safe for a long, long time. Even before she was attacked, she was fearful of her mother when she’d go off her meds and swing into her manic episodes. Correction: Someone other than Noah was able to make Echo feel safe and that was her brother. Since he’s been gone, there hasn’t been anyone since. After the attack, she’s been having nightmares and no one can really protect her from her dreams, but on the occasions that she and Noah can spend the night together, that’s someone to at least be there for her. Also, Noah’s the only person who’s even shown Echo that he’s not afraid or ashamed of her scars and she’s able to just be herself and relaxed around him.
  2. Beth, Noah’s friend, also have a very complex life situation, plus she also does drugs. However, what grabs my attention is her mean behavior towards Echo. Why do you think Beth hate/dislikes Echo so much?
    Answer: Firstly, we know that Beth is afraid that Echo will destroy Noah. Beth, Isaiah, and Noah are all very protective of each other, so she doesn’t want some whirlwind romance with Echo to tear him to pieces if it falls apart. I also thing she’s just a little bit jealous. Not in a romantic sense, but in the sense that a girl she doesn’t know is taking up a lot of her really good friend’s time and emotions. I really do think it’s fear more than anything else though.
  3. At some point, we finally get to know how Noah’s parents died at the fire and how it started. Unfortunately, this is something that has happened before. What tips to avoid a fire (especially when there are kids at home) do you know about? List a few! Recommendations to avoid tragedies are very valuable. 🙂
    Answer: Oh, come on. We’re all adults now. I’m not playing Fire Safety 101.
  4. Echo finally discovers more about what really happened to her the day she got her scars at her mother’s place. Unfortunately, this also involved Echo’s father and Ashley. What do you think about them and to what point do you think it makes them responsible to what happened to Echo?
    Answer: That’s actually a good question. It’s really hard to place blame on them. I’m sure everyone feels guilty, and to a certain extent, Echo’s father and Ashley are, but at the same time, they deserve to be able to live their life too. I think their mistake was exactly what Echo’s father said – He was in a hurry and didn’t bother to check to see if Echo’s mother was in an okay state of mind. It’s hard since Echo was a teenager and for the most part can handle herself. Sometimes it’s easy for that to slip the mind when they were leaving her with a parent and someone that should have been trustworthy. That being said, they certainly have their part in that incident, but I couldn’t say they’re to blame. They didn’t cause it to happen – That fault still lies with Echo’s mother.
  5. On p.303 (from arc) Echo said to Noah: “I love you…[y]ou love your brothers more. I’m okay with that. In fact, it’s one of the things I love about you. You were right the other day. I do want to be part of a family. But I’d never forgive myself if I was the reason you didn’t get yours… I love you enough to never make you choose.”  What do you think of Echo’s decision to break up with Noah? What does it mean to you?
    Answer: I can totally understand her reasoning although I don’t think I’d be a strong enough person to do it. Echo sees herself as a liability to Noah if he has a chance to get custody of his brothers since she might inherit the gene of her mother’s instability. She also wouldn’t be able to bear it if she had inflicted on a child (much less Noah’s brothers) what was done to her as a child.

Pushing The Limits Read-Along: Week 3

It’s week three of the Pushing the Limits read-along!

This event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms. Here’s the breakdown from the hosts themselves: For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
Here are the second week’s questions:
  1. ­­In the beginning of this section Noah decides to ignore Echo because he’s angry and hurt.  What did you think of this?  Have you ever experienced a friendship that went awry and they started ignoring you?
    Answer: Of course, I’m sure most of us experience this at some point in time. That actually happened with one of my best friends from college. Apparently I did something wrong, but she never confronted me about it, just stopped talking to me, refused to answer me, and I still haven’t talked to her since. Now I’m not one for confrontation either, but she could have at least clued me in. Instead I’m feeling guilty for something that I don’t even know what it is! Oh well. I guess if it was that important to end a friendship over, but not important enough to talk about, sometimes I think I’m better off.
  2. Noah has a bit of a false reputation.  Everyone thinks he’s a big druggie and a guy that just randomly hooks up with girls.  While some of it is true to a certain extent, we see it’s not really him.  Have you ever had a false reputation where people draw their own conclusions?  Do you think Noah should do something to make people not think that about him?
    Answer: I’m sure I have had a false reputation, but nothing too horrible. I’m sure a couple of things I did in college were taken the wrong way and I wasn’t given a chance to explain (see above, along with other people), and it really hurt my feelings. I feel like I had a couple people in the same crowd assuming some negative things about me and it mostly hurt me because they were my friends and wouldn’t even hear me out. I look back on it from time to time and still feel hurt, but I know in the end, my true friends are still with me and everything works itself out.
    As for Noah, it’s up to him. If he doesn’t care about the rumors (especially because he knows he’s not as bad as they really are), then I guess it doesn’t matter what people think. It seems like all he cares about is making sure Echo knows what kind of person he really is, and that’s all that really matters to him! I think the problem lies with how the social workers and the law sees him. If he wants to get custody of his brothers, he’ll have to clean up his rep quite a bit!
  3. Ashley finds out she’s having a boy and informs Echo she will have a brother ‘again’.  Echo took this very personally and was extremely upset.  Do you think Echo overreacted?  Do you think Ashley meant that the new brother would replace her brother?
    Answer: Hm. Well, I only think Echo overreacted a little bit. Ashley clearly meant no harm and although she’s quite hated by Echo, it’s not like she’s mean or vindictive. Echo already sees her as the enemy so anything she can say wrong, Echo will take it that way. On the other hand, I totally understand her frustration and sadness with that comment. Echo loved Aires so much and it’s another brother (half-brother at that) – I think the word “again” made the comment come off a little harsher than intended because there’s nothing that can bring Aires back again.
  4. Echo doesn’t remember what happened with her mother and for this reason she has troubles seeing her the way everyone else does.  She can’t seem to not miss her and still wants to talk to her.  Do you think she should pursue finding her mom?  Do you think it will help her or do you think she would be in danger?
    Answer: This is also a tough question! Personally, I think she should do what she feels the strong desire/need to do. It’ll nag at her until she gets answers or it’ll take longer to put those feelings to rest. Although clearly what her mother did to her was incredibly harmful, if she meets her in a safe setting, she might be able to talk to her mother and get some answers. It’s an outcome that’s totally unpredictable – Echo could finally see how unstable her mother is (if she’s not in a good frame of mind when Echo sees her), or she could have a rational conversation with her and talk to her mom about what happened. Either way, I think they’re important things she needs to know.
  5. Noah doesn’t trust the people who have his brothers because of his own past situations.  He decides to seek out a lawyer himself and try to get custody.  Do you think this is his best move?  Do you think there are some other options he should consider?
    Answer: I really don’t think that’s best move. That’s what Mrs Collins is trying to help him with. I really think she’s a great person to use as a reference and as a guide, and that’s really what she’s there for. His record is against him and I think it seems to pushy to hire his own lawyer and that it shows more rebellion against authority because he’s not listening to the experienced adults who are trying to help him. He needs to exhibit some patience and understanding (I know it’s really difficult), but ideally, I think that would work out best.
  6.  Echo finds out that Noah and his parents built houses for Habitat for Humanity.  Have you ever volunteered for something like that?  What is a cause that you feel strongly about?
    Answer: Actually, I really haven’t had a cause that I’ve felt strongly about. Sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t, but really none of my passions in life have led that way. It’s hard work and not everyone is drawn to it. I’m always very thankful for the people who are dedicated to those causes! They’re really inspirational (even if it doesn’t get me off my butt!)

Pushing The Limits Read-Along: Week 2

It’s week two of the Pushing the Limits read-along!

This event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms. Here’s the breakdown from the hosts themselves: For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
Here are the second week’s questions:
  1. ­­­Noah and Echo create a plan to read their files.  What do you think of this plan?  Would you read your friends file first knowing you might not have time to read your own?  Would you want to read your own file?
    Answer: Firstly, I would WANT to read my file, there’s no doubt about that! If someone has a secret about me, I’d have to know. But really, I’d be too afraid to hatch a hair-brained idea like that! If Echo wasn’t dying to know so badly,  I don’t think she’d do it because she seems like how I was in high school (was? I still am…) – hates to get in trouble, good grades, likes being looked at as a good person – and I wouldn’t have had the courage when their was a risk of getting in that much trouble! I think if a friend wanted to look at theirs as well and we only had time to look at one, it’d be the friend’s. The guilt of reading my file and only my file would be too much, and the friend probably deserves it more!
  2. Mrs. Collins starts to earn Noah’s trust by taking him to see his brother win a writing contest.  What do you think of how she’s handling Noah?  How would you feel if you were in Noah’s position, hearing that your brother sees you as his hero?
    Answer: I loved this scene in the book! Of course the crazy driving had me laughing, but also it’s really taking Mrs. Collins more into the spotlight, almost as a hero of our story. She’s helping Echo remember her past, she’s helping Noah with his brothers, and she really goes above and beyond to make sure that her students are getting exactly what they need and deserve! I was the younger sister in my family, so to me my sister was my hero! I think it’s easier to “idolize” an older sibling when there’s a bigger gap in age though. My sister and I are three years apart so really we became more of best friends than me just looking up to her. If I were someone’s hero? I always kind of hoped people would look up to me in high school. I was really big into choir and I always hoped the younger kids looked up to me as I had when I was a freshman/sophomore with the juniors/seniors! I’ve always wondered…
  3. Echo is starting to draw and paint again.  She’s starting to express the feelings and what she’s seeing as she’s starting to remember what happened that day.  Art therapy seems to be a popular way for people to deal with their feelings, why do you think Echo’s dad didn’t want her to continue with art since it was such a big part of her and is part of so many people’s therapy in dealing with similar issues?
    Answer: Echo’s dad doesn’t want her to remember. I’m not sure if it’s for selfish reasons or because he’s really trying to protect her, but he doesn’t want those memories to resurface and for Echo to have another breakdown. Also I think since her mother was an artist as well, he may see it as a reflection of Echo’s mother and it’s something that scares him. From the way her mother ended up, he doesn’t want Echo to share so many things with her mom, which we did learn from this section that they do have quite a lot in common.
  4. We see how crazy Beth’s home life is and we start to understand why she is not as keen to be trusting with people in her life.  At the same time, we get to see how fiercely loyal Noah is.  What do you think of the way Noah reacted to Beth being beaten by her mother’s boyfriend?  Do you think it’s showing bad behavior that could get Noah in more trouble or the act of a true friend?
    Answer: I think in the eyes of the court/law/whatever, yes, that would be seen as “bad behavior” and something they could/would use against Noah when they assess his temper – We as the readers get to see that Noah’s temperament seems to be based strongly on loyalty. He’s fighting for his brothers, he’s fighting for Beth, he’s even fighting for Echo. He fights for the people he cares about and when it comes off as a strong temper and quick action, it’s hard for other people to see it for what it really is. Even though we can see that it really is a positive trait in Noah, he’ll still have to control it if he wants custody of his brothers and stay out of trouble with the law.
  5. Echo has an unusual name.  What do you think of the story behind it?  Is there a Greek Myth or other story that would inspire you to name a child after a character?
    Answer: Could be Greek myth.. I don’t really know much about it. I thought it was funny that we find out how similar Echo and her mother are and it made me think of Echo actually being an “echo” of her mom. Of course, they couldn’t have known that when they named her, but we see so many similarities now… which is also why her dad is so afraid! Personally, I don’t think I’d name my child after a character or story, but I do know that negative influences (the bad character, person I didn’t care for in real life) would influence me NOT to use that name for my child.
  6. Echo’s big thing is trying to find “normal” again.  She doesn’t want to be the scared girl or the girl who can’t remember what happened to her, she just wants to be normal.  This goal impacts her relationships with her family, friends, Noah and her ex Luke.   But at the end of this section, Echo is starting to figure out that there’s no going back to old normal and she’s going to have to find a new normal.   How big of a step is it for Echo when she realizes she’s not “in” love with Luke and figures out that she does need to find a new normal?
    Answer: It’s a very big step. Echo’s starting to figure out that she can’t go back, she can’t live in the past. What happened to her really did change her life, whether she wanted it to or not. It’s a fact that she’s learning to deal with and she’s starting to make things better for herself by spending time with people who are on her side and who are showing her the proper support that she needs (specifically Noah… obviously). She can find a new normal. I think the hardest part is admitting that and moving on from the things you loved in the past. She can’t go back to them as much as she would like to because everything is different now. I’ve felt that way about a lot of stages in my life so far, but for as much fun as I had in high school and in college, I’m just a different person now. It wouldn’t be right to try to make those things fit in my life now. On the other hand, I love where I am now! And the way my life is now wouldn’t have made sense in high school or in college. As you experience different things, it’s going to change everything, but it all happens for a reason and it all happens at the right time.

Some really, really great questions this week!!! I had a lot of fun answering these 🙂

Pushing The Limits Read-Along: Week 1

It’s week one of the Pushing the Limits read-along!

This event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms. Here’s the breakdown from the hosts themselves: For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
Here are the first week’s questions:
  1. The story starts out with Echo’s thoughts on how she wants to answer her therapist’s questions (snarky and caustically truthful) which are quickly juxtaposed to how she does (milque-toasty and banal). Who do you think she hides the truth for more, her parents or herself?
    Answer:
    Definitely for herself. Even though she doesn’t get along with her dad and hates her step-mom Ashley, I think it’s a defense for herself. Even if she did care what her parents thought, she answers quietly and dishonestly as a shield to protect herself. She clearly doesn’t want to talk about the things that happened in her past and doesn’t want to meet with the therapist anymore. Echo tries to make it as quick and painless as possible.
  2. We see Mrs. Collins, the school therapist, interact with both Echo and Noah in the first few chapters. From those interactions, what do you think of her? Is she a prototypical caricature of state care? Or do you think she’s there to make an honest difference in the lives of those she’s there to help?
    Answer:
    So far it seems like she’s more than an assigned therapist, following through with her job. It seems like she really cares about the people that she works with and really wants to see these kids turn their lives around and really help them. So far, I really like her and it also seems like she’s able to take all the crap that these teenagers give her and twist it around to a positive.
  3. Noah has two friends, Beth and Isaiah, who have his back no matter what–through thick and thin–and he has theirs. Consequently, his life is a little easier because he has two people who know about his situation. Echo only has one close friend, and Lila will barely speak to her in school. Do you think Echo would have had an easier time coping and moving on if she had friends like Noah does?
    Answer:
    I definitely think it always helps to have friends you can talk to and who understand you. I know the best thing for me when I’m frustrated or hurting it to talk to someone about it. Friends don’t always have to solve your problems or give you advice, but I think the moral support of just being there is enough to help anyone during a crisis. Echo really pulled back from her friends when “the incident” happened and I think she might have been able to move along with her life better if she had better support on which she could rely.
  4. Echo fixates on a colorful ribbon that sits on the school counselor’s desk during their one-on-one sessions. Do you think this is a case of “Oh, look at the pretty ribbon. Let me zone out while staring at it” , or could it have a deeper significance!
    Answer:
    Hello, foreshadowing!!! Of course it has a deeper significance. Why else would it have been pointed out to us??
  5. Noah and the jacket… Already when Noah and Echo meet for the first time, Noah got angry when Echo forgot her Jacket (pg 34). Then on Echo’s Birthday party Noah gave Echo his jacket when he saw that she forgot hers (pg 54). There is a significance behind his anger when Echo has no coat and it tells already so much about Noah! a) Why do you think is Noah so focused on Echo and her jacket and what does that tell you about Noah’s character? b) Show us your favorite jacket! Either with you having it on or alone!
    Answer: Hmmm. Possibly there was some significant point in his life where a loved one was left out in the cold/froze to death?? Maybe he was without a home for a while with all of his jumping around in poor foster homes and knows the importance of having a coat so he can be mobile at all times?? I noticed that right off the bat that he freaked out when Echo wasn’t wearing her jacket and thought that was odd since at that point they weren’t even friends and he showed so much concern. There’s something behind that! Either way, I know we’ll get the story behind that later!
  6. Echo wears gloves all the time to hide her scars. Not only for her sake, but obviously also for the others. When Noah sees Echo’s scars for the first time he’s shocked. a) Do you think this was the moment he began to see Echo in a different light? b) Show us your favorite pair of gloves!
    Answer:
    Absolutely! Before she was just another girl. Kind of hot. Strangely wears long sleeved shirts, but whatever. Then when Noah sees her scars, it’s like “Whoa! There’s a LOT more to this” and we as the readers kind of almost get the same reaction. There’s a lot more to Echo’s story than we knew, and I definitely think it softens Noah’s feelings towards her. He can tell she’s been through something seriously traumatic and maybe he shouldn’t treat her poorly and tease her. She clearly doesn’t need more of that in her life.