Review: Dare You To

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dare You ToDare You To by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #2
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 28, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 456
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-stars

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

First Sentence: “I’m not interested in second place.”

Review:
Though I’ve not actually read any reviews of Dare You To, I’ve seen some ratings roll in and some status updates, so I’d seen enough to be wary. I was immensely impressed with McGarry’s debut and very excited about her sophomore novel, but also hesitant in case my love for the first turned out to be a fluke. Thankfully, for me, Dare You To is, if anything a stronger read than Pushing the Limits, since, ultimately, I find both Beth and Ryan to be more compelling leads.

Now, I do warn you that Beth and Ryan are both rather awful people as the novel opens. Ryan starts out as that cocky jock asshole, used to always getting what he wants out of life. He’s basically Freddie Prinze Jr. from She’s All That, making dares with his buddies about girls. Specifically, he and his friend Chris dare each other to get girls’ numbers at the beginning of the book. The way he thinks about girls made me want to smack the smirk off his face. Beth, too, is a handful. She makes horrible life choices, and is an asshole to the people trying to help her.

If you stick with them though, Beth and Ryan do really mature through the course of the book, as they realize what’s important to them and face up to their demons. They’re young and completely screwed up by their parents, so it’s a wonder they make as much progress as they do. Both of them, though, have good hearts from the start, even if they don’t apply them as well as they could. For example, though Ryan may think unflattering things about girls from time to time, he does treat them well, dares aside, even refusing to allow his friends to call his ex-girlfriend evil, despite her manipulative nature; he cared for her once and won’t see her maligned.

Beth is pretty much emotionally ruined, unable to trust anyone but Isaiah and Noah. She has good reason, since most people either leave her or hit her or both. Her mother is an alcoholic and a junkie, unwilling to leave her drug dealing boyfriend, Trent, not even for her daughter’s sake. Even so, Beth takes care of her, even to the degree of taking the fall and getting arrested for a crime her mother committed. Beth’s determination to protect and save her mother is evidence of her good heart, but it’s also tragic, keeping her from doing what’s best for herself. Children really do want to love their parents, even when they shouldn’t.

Speaking of bad parents, it’s young adult fiction, so Ryan has them too. His mother and father live a life of social events and pretending to be the perfect family, when actually they just kicked his older brother out after Mark revealed his homosexuality. Ryan feels abandoned by Mark and stifled by his parents. What I love about Ryan’s story is that he’s actively making choices for the future: whether to pursue a career in major league baseball or to go for college and consider writing as a career. Not enough YA actually deals with thoughts of the life beyond high school.

As in Pushing the Limits, Katie McGarry wrote the book from the perspectives of both of the main characters. Yet again, she does a phenomenal job writing two distinct points of view, neither of which reads like Noah or Echo either. Color me impressed. McGarry even managed to sell me on their romance, though I was skeptical at first. Ryan’s actually a really sweet, respectful guy under the swagger. He’s very up front and good at communicating, and that’s something Beth needs and isn’t good at herself. This is another romance where the tropes are sort of turned on their head, with the tattooed bad girl and the more innocent guy. He embraces feelings and she just wants to keep things physical and temporary. Also, they become more social as they get closer, rather than descending into the couple cave, which is great too.

My only qualms are these: the melodrama and Ryan’s writing. Though I think it’s well done, the drama of it all did seem a bit over the top at times. I let that slide in Pushing the Limits, but having both teens have terrible parents again and dealing with a lot of the same issues was a bit too much for me. Then there’s the apparently amazing story that Ryan has written, which gets him nominated for a literary award and scholarship. That’s all fine, except that he apparently wrote Warm Bodies, which is weird to me.

In Dare You To, Katie McGarry dares to take a risk on characters who aren’t as likable on the outset. If you can keep an open mind, that gamble pays off in the end, but, of course, that’s not for everyone. With this, I can confidently declare myself a McGarry fan, and will be eagerly anticipating Crash Into You, Isaiah’s story.

Favorite Quote:

“‘You’re a lot like that bird in the barn. You’re so scared you’re going to be caged in forever that you can’t see the way out. You smack yourself against the wall again and again and again. The door is open, Beth. Stop running in circles and walk out.'”

24 responses to “Review: Dare You To”

  1. GillyB says:

    I’ve been wondering if I should start this series or not. They don’t really sound like the kind of books I like, but I had heart they were really well-written. Now I’m thinking I should give them a shot (even though the titles and character names bug me, for some inexplicable reason. Beth RISK?). Anyway, I’m most impressed by the distinct voices thing. That’s REALLY hard to carry off.

  2. Andrea C. says:

    I hadn’t read Pushing the Limits when I picked up Dare You To, which is something I hate doing, but hadn’t realized it right away.

    Anyway, I did love this book. I thought the characters were very likeable, especially Ryan. While I did feel bad for Beth, part of me was just waiting for her to see the light with her mom. It was frustrating, but a part of me got it.

    I did notice the correlation between Ryan’s story and Warm Bodies, which I thought was kind of a bit of a cheat, but I also saw the relation between himself and Beth in the story.

    One of my favorite parts was the scene near the end of the book where it was raining and the following scene with the cologne bottle. Top cute.

    ​​
    ~Andrea @ Beauty but a Funny Girl

    • Christina says:

      Gah, I do that sometimes and it makes me so sad.

      I really wanted her to give up on her mom too, but that’s one of the tragic things about kids: it’s really hard for them to not want approval from their parents.

      That was pretty sweet.

  3. Amy says:

    I could not get into this for the life of me. I tried, and tried. I loved PtL and I am super excited for Isaiah’s story, but this one wasn’t working for me. Maybe I will try again, but Ryan and Beth were just hard for me to want to read. Great review!

  4. Kelly says:

    Not enough YA actually deals with thoughts of the life beyond high school.

    So true! Now that I think about it, Ryan’s struggle with his choices for the future was one of the things I enjoyed most about him and his character development. I loved watching him work out whether he loved baseball and the dream of playing in the pros because of his interests or because of his father’s.

    And I’m so glad you thought his book sounded like Warm Bodies! I’ve only seen the movie, but from what we saw of his story, it sounded eerily similar!

    So glad you liked this one! I was so nervous to start it, but I should have known McGarry, melodrama aside, was going to write another page-turner!

    • Christina says:

      Ryan felt like a pretty normal kid dealing with regular issues, and actually planning for the future, which was nice.

      Gah, I love McGarry, and I’m so excited for Crash Into You!

  5. I have heard so many things about this series! Several of my blogger friends seemed to think that Dare You To was actually weaker than PTL thus falling under that 2nd book curse.

    So I’m still iffy on the series.

  6. Megan K. says:

    I found Beth and Ryan more appealing to me, too, though I can’t remember much about PTL, so maybe that has something to do with it. I loved Ryan’s romantic-ness so much (THAT BOTTLE OF RAIN *sniffle*), though yeah, things got a little bit dramatic. And I never really thought of Ryan’s writing that way. It’s impossible to unsee the similarities now…

  7. fakesteph says:

    So glad you enjoyed this one! I loved it! And I’m so excited for Isaiah’s story. And you’re right… the story Ryan was writing is totally Warm Bodies!

  8. Molli Moran says:

    I couldn’t finish this one, but I was such a huge fan of PTL that I’m really happy you enjoyed DYT, Christina. I kept wondering, even as I DNF’ed it, if Ryan or Beth ever got any better, and despairing if they would. I agree, the voices were very distinct, and that is definitely difficult to pull off when writing dual POV if it’s first person. McGarry is an awesome writer!

    • Christina says:

      That’s too bad, Molly. I didn’t like them right out the gate, but they got so much better, and I think they’re a bit more realistic than Noah and Echo.

  9. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Pushing The Limits so I’m a little wary to read McGarry’s follow-up novel. While I loved the two distinct points of view, which is where I thought McGarry’s writing excelled, I found the first novel melodramatic and the constant use of pet-names and romance between Noah and Echo a little too saccharine for my taste. Personally, it sounds as though many of the same issues are re-hashed again in Dare You To, with a simple gender reversal. That said, I’m still a little curious to read McGarry’s sophomore novel to see whether my opinions have changed at all since I read Pushing The Limits last year.

    I am glad to hear you enjoyed it! 🙂 If anything, your review might have induced me to pick it up and give this series a second chance.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, I think this one’s less cutesy. No pet names this time (I hate those too). There are a lot of similarities, but I don’t think it read like the same story. When it comes down to it, most contemporary romances are going to be rather reminiscent of each other.

  10. I’m so glad you liked it! Much more than I did, by the looks of things 😀 I really liked Beth, but Ryan… not so much. The way he treated Beth got on my nerves and I ended up hating him.

    I totally agree that more YA novels need to start putting some focus on the future, once the characters are out of high school. It amazes me when the characters are seniors, and yet the romance or the drama is still the only thing that’s mentioned. Surely seniors have to think about college and whatever a lot more than they seem to in YA?

    Dying over Ryan writing Warm Bodies.

  11. Bookworm1858 says:

    I thought this was better than PTL as well because it seemed a little less over the top dramatic to me and more grounded. I also liked the sweet guy Ryan turned out to be as he woos the pushing him away Beth.

  12. Judith says:

    Hahaha, I didin’t even realize Ryan’s story was practically Warm Bodies. Very… original. Like you, I found Beth and Ryan to be stronger leads than Echo and Noah. I don’t know what it was about them (perhaps the lack of nicknaming?) but though they both started off as jerks, I ended up REALLY liking them. And okay yeah, the lack of nicknaming made me like Ryan MUCH more than Noah. I also liked that Ryan’s story was slightly less dramatic than Noah’s because honestly, how long would two books about screwed up teens getting together stay interesting? It’d lose it’s glory, so I’m glad that this story was *somewhat* lighter than PTL. Anyway, I’m rambling, which I tend to do a lot. I’m also very excited for Isaiah’s story, even though I didn’t like him that much in this one.

    • Christina says:

      THE LACK OF NICKNAMING DOESN’T HURT. Yeah, I think Beth’s story is just as dark, but Ryan’s problems are pretty normal. Yeah, I was not an Isaiah fan here, but I don’t even currrrr.

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