posted at Friday, July 12th, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Reviews, Young Adult
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.Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #2
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 28, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Source: YA Books Central
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.”
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.
“‘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.'”