Sunday, 11 June 2017

Review: 'Dare You To' by Katie McGarry

Sometimes a girl needs to disappear into a beautiful YA novel for a day or so, just to forget about everything else that is happening. And if that YA novel happens to be written by Katie McGarry, then a girl is bound to be in for a good time. I loved dipping back into her writing and falling in love with her characters again. Don't ask me why it took so many years for me to get onto reading this book, just be as grateful as I am that I finally did. Thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 07/06/2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Beth’s the bad girl that no-one wanted, not even parents.Ryan’s the high school hero that everyone wants a piece of – even if no-one knows the real him. 
Their paths should never have crossed – now they’re each other’s only life line.
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s mum they’d send her mother to jail. So seventeen year old Beth protects her mum at all costs. Until the day she can’t. Suddenly sent to live with her uncle in a small town Beth’s now stuck with an aunt who doesn’t want her, and at a school that doesn’t get her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t go anywhere near a girl like Beth. . . .
Ryan Stone is gorgeous, a popular jock and the town golden boy—with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Even his friends. As Ryan and Beth dare to let each other in, they’re treading on dangerous ground – and the consequences could change their worlds forever.
Dare You To is the second novel in the Pushing the Limits series, which started with the eponymous novel. I adored Pushing the Limits and although Isaiah and Beth remained side-characters for me, I definitely was curious to read the second novel. Exactly why it took me almost five years is something of a mystery, although I did sidetrack into Walk the Edge a year ago. However, I am almost glad that I waited so long. In my late teens I went through a major love affair with YA fiction. After spending years claiming I was more of a "serious literature" fan, I fell in love hard with the genre thanks to a few specific and amazing reads. One of these was McGarry's Pushing the Limits, but there was also Beautiful Disaster and Unspoken. What I didn't expect from these books but got a truckload of was feelings, of giddiness, of heart ache, of joy, and of despair. I loved getting dragged along in these stories of people my age, of their adventures or lack thereof. Perhaps I also loved it so much because I had denied myself these types of books for so long. Now, a few years later, I have read a lot more books, a lot more YA as well, and my literary taste has developed a lot. I still read YA and now I often do so to go back to the simple yet complicated feelings of being a teenager. And nowhere do I find those feelings more than with Katie McGarry.

What I really enjoyed about Dare You To is how McGarry took certain stereotypes and worked with them. The goth chick is caring and vulnerable, the jock is conscientious and honest, the bad parents may occasionally appreciate their children. On the one hand Dare You To is filled with YA Romance cliches and a lot of the twists and turns can be seen from a mile away. Perhaps had I read this in 2013, the plot might have surprised me more, but the predictability of the plot is, with these kinds of novels, part of the charm. It's like sinking into a Hallmark movie, which perhaps won't surprise you with its story, but will with its emotions. Because Dare You To is full of emotions: anger, fear, love, lust, hate, and everything in between. You get strangely attached to McGarry's characters because she allows you directly into their heart. Although not everything is revealed at the beginning, you get a very strong sense of who these people are, what they might think in any given situation. And she excels at writing friendships and relationships, the kind that are so sweet and aspirational it is almost sickening, but just rough enough to leave you wanting more.

I still adore McGarry's writing. Her characters are often deeply conflicted, with serious trauma in their past and present. It's not easy to write such characters convincingly and gently, yet McGarry manages this fine balance. She allows her characters to be foolishly stubborn, incredibly rude and achingly vulnerable; her characters actually read like teenagers. In her novels, McGarry consistently tackles incredibly difficult themes and this is part of the reason why I enjoy her writing. Fiction is meant to give not only an outlet, it is also supposed to be a mirror. I have always thought YA the perfect genre for exploring the difficult questions of life because teenagers and young adults need to read about, think about and talk about them. McGarry treats topics like self-harming, drug abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence etc. with the seriousness that they deserve, although she also makes them serve her plot. They are not casually thrown into the novel, but rather have a genuine impact on her characters. I enjoy reading novels such as Dare You To because I think they can be great conversation starters for younger readers. For that, I will always appreciate Katie McGarry.

I give this novel...

3 Universes!

I really enjoyed Dare You To and raced through it. Although I read McGarry differently now than I did before, I loved returning to her writing and the characters she creates. Actually, I might go and  revisit Pushing the Limits now... I'd recommend this to fans of YA Romance and New Adult fiction.

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