Echo: Once a popular, happy-go-lucky girl, Echo Emerson has become withdrawn and quiet. She always wears long sleeves to hide the scars on her arms—scars that she doesn't remember getting, though she knows it had something to do with her estranged mother—and she's become somewhat of an outcast at school. At home, she's grieving for her older brother, who died in Afghanistan, while putting up with her controlling, overbearing father, and his new, pregnant wife... who used to be her babysitter.
Noah: Although none of his classmates knows it, stoner and chronic underachiever Noah also used to be popular and happy-go-lucky... back before his parents died in a house fire, he was separated from his younger brothers, and they all ended up in the foster system. The girls at school are quite aware of how smolderingly hot he is, but are also well aware that he's only into one-night stands.
Now, Echo and Noah are being forced to see the school guidance counselor—Echo, in order to work through her repressed memories, and Noah, to get his life back on track in order to gain custody of his brothers—who, since Echo needs money and Noah needs to raise his GPA, has seen fit to pair them up for weekly tutoring sessions.
Pushing the Limits is a she-said/he-said romance about a couple of high school seniors who discover two things: opposites attract, and sometimes those who appear to be completely different on the outside are actually very similar on the inside. (So, really, opposites aren't really opposites? Or something. Maybe I'm overthinking this. ANYWAY.)
I appreciated the fact that the book was honest about underage drinking: they drank, and it wasn't a Big Issue. And I also appreciated that Noah's narration focused on Echo's physical attributes pretty regularly—that's something that I don't see all that often in YA romance, and while it makes him come off as a tad less classy, it also adds that much more realism—but other than that, their two narrative voices weren't all that distinct from each other. (Also, they're BOTH prone to cocking eyebrows, and we all know I have issues with that.)
The writing—more often in Noah's chapters, so maybe the voices were more different than I'm giving them credit for—tips further into the daytime drama realm than I find enjoyable, with a decent amount of dialogue like this:
The pain. The wounds scab over and you don't always feel like a knife is slashing through you. But when you least expect it, the pain flashes back to remind you you'll never be the same. (Noah)
It's like I have this large black hole in my brain and it's sucking the life out of me. The answers are in there so I sit for hours and stare. No matter how hard and long I look, I only see darkness. (Echo)
Overall, while the Echo's Missing Memories storyline is likely to keep readers turning pages (I mean, despite my issues with the writing, it kept me reading), I finished the book feeling that it could have been at least a hundred pages shorter. It'll definitely appeal to fans of Perfect Chemistry and other similar titles, but, as you may have guessed, it wasn't a stand-out romance for me. Then again, I was one of the few readers I know who wasn't bananas about Perfect Chemistry, either, so maybe there's something in that...
Book source: ILLed through my library. This book was read for the 2012 Cybils season.