Friday, May 24, 2013

ARC Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Title: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2) 

Author: Katie McGarry 

Rating: 3.75-4 Stars

Release Date: May 28th, 2013

When it comes to Katie McGarry’s sophomore novel, I don’t quite know where to start. For one, I have to admit that I didn’t love this as much as I did Pushing the Limits. For some reason, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this tale, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I had my misgivings about it even before I started, mostly because I was a little confused as to why Beth and Isaiah were not the couple in this novel, but McGarry had proven that better than anyone else, she truly knows her characters inside-out and she makes us, as the reader, get to know them on that level of depth as well. Truly, McGarry is one of the few contemporary authors who I can count on to deliver a romance that is equal parts heart-wrenching and sweet, making her stories close to perfect.

Dare You To is a very different story from Pushing the Limits.While McGarry’s debut had an undercurrent of mystery to it, her sophomore story takes on a more typical route. On one hand we have Beth, a heroine we already know; we know her mother does drugs, we know Trent, her mother’s boyfriend, hits both Beth and her mother, we know that Beth has been taking care of her mother since she was eight, not vice versa. On the other hand we have Ryan, a boy who seems to be perfect from the outside but whose family is falling apart, whose brother is gay and has been kicked out of the house, whose goals are so intertwined with his father’s dreams that he no longer knows what he really wants. When extenuating circumstances force Beth to move in with her Uncle Scott, a baseball player and huge inspiration to Ryan, a baseball player himself, the two find themselves unexpectedly meeting and talking and then, without even knowing how, falling in love.

First and foremost, I want to get out of the way that in retrospect, I am thrilled that this isn’t Beth and Isaiah’s love story. McGarry makes us understand as this novel progresses that Isaiah is Beth’s rock – the friend she can always count on – but that doesn’t mean that he necessarily does what’s best for her. If anything, the two are too similar, too broken, and too messed up to help each other truly heal, which is why Ryan and Beth are made for one another.

Dare You To starts out a little disjointed, taking awhile for the reader to grow accustomed to the narration. It is still the characteristic dual perspective used in Pushing the Limits and, once again, it works beautifully, but it takes awhile for this story to really get started. Once it does, however, it is impossible not to be drawn into both of these characters. Beth is a character we all know – tough exterior, but utterly vulnerable underneath. While Ryan’s original interest in Beth stems from a dare and the fact that her uncle is a famous baseball player, something he himself aspires to be, he slowly begins to see the girl she is underneath. As Ryan falls in love with Beth, so do we and our heart breaks for her and her and her helpless situation.

In a lot of ways, McGarry’s sophomore story reminded me of Lara Zielin’s The Waiting Sky since both novels feature protagonists who are constantly taking care of their mothers, unable to understand that there is nothing they can do for them. Like Zielin, McGarry too crafts this storyline with poise, elegance, and feeling. Beth becomes so three-dimensional and real, despite the fact that her problems are so far away from our own. Ryan, comparatively, is easier to relate to because his life is more like ours and so are his problems. Yet, I love that both Ryan and Beth have to learn to find their own happiness, without that added pressure of pleasing others. McGarry builds this theme so perfectly, the idea of living for yourself and learning to trust not only others, but also yourself with the idea of happiness. It’s beautiful.

If there are any flaws within this novel, they lie mostly within a few plot structures. I, for one, wanted a little more of nearly everything. McGarry tackles on a lot of issues in this novel, which is ambitious, and she makes it work for the most part too, but I craved more of Ryan and his interactions with his parents, especially when it came to his gay older brother, Mark, who his family shunned and his own personal struggles in convincing his parents that he wanted to go to college and pursue writing instead of directly joining pro baseball leagues. In addition, I wish that Beth’s relationship with Scott’s wife, Allison, had also had a little more of a foundation. It sprung up out of seemingly nowhere by the end of the story and while Scott and Beth’s progressive growth and trust of their relationship was excellent, Allison and Beth were a little shaky. Even Beth’s friendship with Lacy, the girl who used to be her best friend, was all slightly glossed over in favor of expanding Beth and Isaiah’s friendship troubles. Lastly, and this is minor, is the fact that Ryan and Beth's attraction started out purely physical, which grated on me a bit, but I'm glad it moved into a realm where they found genuine love and acceptance in one another for who they were, not what they looked like.

While these issues were never overly large or looming, I did feel their absence and I hope McGarry takes on slightly less in her next novel. What I do appreciate about her books, though, is that they seem typical and dramatic, but the drama and misunderstandings all serve a greater purpose; at the end of them, the relationship between the people involved is always changed for the good, so it never seems to be a plot device that is simply there to prolong the story. I know many readers were irritated by the drama in Pushing the Limits, so I can’t promise that it’s not present in this one either, but in my opinion, both books used the drama in them to further their tale. Plus, despite Ryan and Beth facing such dissimilar issues, McGarry manages to make them both seem equally as important, dangerous, and life-changing, which goes a long way in creating their depth.

Fans of Pushing the Limits will definitely not be disappointed by McGarry’s latest, which is another page-turning, heart-pounding romance that will make you swoon and cry, all at the same time. Beth and Ryan’s voices are so different from that of Noah and Echo, so it feels as if I’ve never read this story before, even though I’ve read so many various versions of it in each contemporary novel. Nevertheless, if there’s one author I can count on to help me escape to another world for a few hours, to forget about my own problems and immerse myself in someone else’s, it’s Katie McGarry. Somehow, this author has turned into one whose books I just can’t say no to and I’m already excited to get my hands on her next book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 


  1. Lovely review, Keertana! You are the first person I've come across that wasn't disappointed that the love story wasn't between Beth and Isaiah! I totally feel the same way as you do. He had too much baggage to help her heal in life. While I was surprised McGarry didn't go that route, I appreciated that she didn't. Instead Isaiah will get his own story and girl! Can't wait for that one. :)

  2. I've heard some fairly derisive reviews of this one, but I appreciate the balance that yours features. I think it's nice when an author actually throws us for a loop and takes a more unexpected take on a relationship story - especially in this instance. Plus, the reasoning behind the transition is definitely sound. Wonderful review, Keertana :)

  3. I adore novels too which allow you totally forget your own problems, so I'm glad Dared to You helped you to do that Keertana. I unfortunately didn't really get on with Pushing the Limits, so decided not to give Dare to You a try. But I'm glad that McGarry decided to go on a different path and bring Ryan into the story, he definitely sounds as everything that Beth needs. Beautiful review Keertana! :)

  4. "If anything, the two are too similar, too broken, and too messed up to help each other truly heal, which is why Ryan and Beth are made for one another."

    Yes. Originally I really wanted Beth and Isaiah together, but you are exactly right Keertana! Beth needs Isaiah in her life, but not in the capacity of a lover, and Katie made that so beautifully clear with this book. Plus, them not being together means we get a whole other book with Isaiah's story and that's definitely a good thing. Beautiful review!

  5. I really wanted to care for Pushing the Limits but it didn't work out. I'm not sure if I'm going to read this since PtL wasn't a good book for me. I'm glad you liked it though!

  6. Oh dear, it's a more typical story that Pushing the Limits? Hah. I wasn't too keen on the first book, but I'm the odd man out since so many of my friends are crazy about it. I'm glad to see that you're still enjoying the series overall, though, Keertana. Sometimes you just need a good escapist fantasy...even when there are no dragons in sight!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  7. I'm really surprised to see that this books wasn't as emotional as PtL. I mean this book shattered me. I love both equally. I'm happy to heard that you've enjoyed this one over all :) I can't wait to read Isaiah's story :) Great review :)

  8. I completely agree with you about the drama, Keertana. I didn't tire of this book the way I normally would have, and I think that is down to McGarry making the angst and slight cliches work well for her characters' situations. I wasn't as emotionally invested in this one either, but I still really liked it. I just can't wait to get Isaiah's story now. Lovely review, my dear!

  9. I have to admit I have yet to read Pushing the Limits and I don't know if I will. I'm not sure it's my type of read or maybe all the hype turned me off. But I am amazed by the many positive reviews and the large following it has gained. I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed Dare You To, despite some issues. I'm with you on the whole relationship starting off as physical. That would bug me to. I love romances that slowly develop in the sweetest, most unexpected ways. But I love how it explores some deeper issues, like family problems and domestic violence. I hope you love the next one! Great review!

  10. Truth be told, Pushing the Limits didn't leave a lasting impression on me so I'd forgotten all those details you mention about Beth. But I DID remember enough to make me think she'd end up with Isaiah and I was very surprised to learn otherwise. But I think McGarry made the right decision there. Two damaged people have little chance of putting their pasts behind them.
    GReat review, Keertana!

  11. I'm in such agreement with you. I didn't want Isaiah and Beth together for the same reasons. They needed to get out of their situation and that would only drawn them into the same thing over and over. I also agree that some of the issues resolved itself without epiphany. Still, it was a good read and I want the next! :D

  12. I loved this book! I admit, there i is a lot of swearing, but the book is very realistic and I liked that. Its about the same as pushing the limit, but a bit better. I think it would have been better if some of the whole Ryan beth Trent scene at the end had been partially written in ryans point or view. Otherwise I loved it!

    Maycee Greene (Anchorage Website Design)

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