by Katie McGarry
To be published by Harlequin Teen
on May 28, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.
Quote is from an ARC and finished copy may change.
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Summary (from Goodreads) 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....My take: If you love contemporary YA that leans toward NA -- romance that really ramps up both the emotion and the sexual tension -- you should definitely check out Katie McGarry's novels.
Dare You To is a companion book to Pushing the Limits and focuses on Beth, a character from that book. I think it's preferable to read Pushing the Limits before Dare You To, but it's not absolutely necessary.
I love odd couple romances, and Beth and Ryan are just that. She's angry and rebellious, while he's a talented baseball player and parent-pleasing kind of guy. However, it definitely took a while for me to feel any sparks or chemistry between the two of them, and I think that may have been the result of the whole "dare" motif. The dare/bet plot is a well-known one in teen movies and chick flicks like She's All That, Cruel Intentions, or How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It's a tried-and-true way to bring two seemingly mismatched characters together, to let them fall in love, and then let the reader watch the emotional fireworks as bet or dare is revealed.
In the case of Dare You To, I thought the dare concept detracted somewhat from the main story. As the book opens, Ryan and his best friend Chris are having a contest to see who can collect the most phone numbers. Fine, except that Chris has a girlfriend and claims he's madly in love, and Ryan is supposed to be his best friend. Right off, I'm not favorably disposed to either guy. Chris dares Ryan to ask Beth for her number and -- to her credit -- she shoots him down. Then Chris proceeds to dare Ryan to get Beth to go out with him.
The dare subplot did eventually fall by the wayside so the book could focus on all the other stuff going on. Just as in Pushing the Limits, there are Issues with a capital I: Beth's junkie mother, friction between Ryan's parents over his brother, Ryan's mean girl ex. All the characters have traumas and problems and resentments and loads of angst. Beth curses and rages and tries to protect her train wreck of a mother while Ryan tries to please everyone around him. Ryan tries to get closer to Beth, and she shoves him away. At times these kinds of books can get to be too much of an emo-fest for my taste, but I like the way that Katie McGarry allows the hard edge of reality to cut through all the emotional drama. She doesn't always try to tie everything up in a neat bow. For example, it's clear that Beth still isn't crazy about Echo, the main character from Pushing the Limits. Things stay unresolved with Beth's mother, and that felt realistic to me.
And … what about Isaiah?
I love that guy! For me, the most moving parts of Dare You To were the scenes between Beth and Isaiah, and I wish there had been more of them. I could feel the emotion between the two of them, and my heart broke as they tried to sort out their feelings for each other.
Isaiah is my rock. The string that holds me together when I'm ready to fall apart. He's the anchor that keeps me from floating away when I go too far. His heart has been the one constant rhythm in my life and I don't want to let it go.
I'm thinking that the next book -- Crash Into You -- has to be about Isaiah. Right? Yes?