Dare You To: review

May 2, 2013 2.5 star books, 2013, K., Katie McGarry, realistic fiction 53

Title: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)
Author: Katie McGarry
 2.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date:
May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by publisher

Dare You To by Katie McGarry is the second installment in her Pushing the Limits series. It’s a companion novel and follows the story of Beth Risk, a character we first meet in Pushing the Limits. This is a contemporary romance and this kind in particular, I tend to call “giddy books”. You know, the ones that make you feel all of seventeen again — all gigglish and sweet. Le sigh. Unfortunately, it failed to actually make me giddy.

The first thing I noticed was the page count. My arc had 462 pages. 462. No contemporary novel should be 462 pages long. That’s high fantasy. Epic romance. Not a book about a girl and a boy and a high school.

Okay enough, I’m not being fair because this does explore some very serious issues. Beth Risk is seventeen, has a drug addict for a mother, an absentee for a father, protective and loyal stoners for friends, and a once-failed rescuer for an uncle. Ryan is a football star, the son of a prominent family, and a closet writer. There’s sex, drugs, violence, law, cussing, and discrimination all wrapped up in the budding yet painfully drawn out romance between the two leading characters.

In pretty much all ways I can think of, this is your typical run-of-the-mill (dark) contemporary romance geared towards young adults. I say dark because it is slightly more graphic, both physically and emotionally, than others. McGarry definitely asked for censorship to be lifted on this one for sure.

Dare You To gives you what you want, when you want. Which isn’t really what I wanted at all. It’s predictable. It has those moments when something is said just so that a character is given yet another opportunity to profess unconditional love…yeah, you know. There are too many coincidences. The internal monologues are extensive. And the language is often cheesy. Case in point:  

“My hands roam over his back, clawing for the hem of his shirt, eager to explore the glorious muscles underneath.”


I hate finding faults because, obviously, as a reader I wish every book I read was perfection. But even the characters I didn’t entirely get. Beth (for good reason so really this is all me) is too high-strung, stubborn, and morbid. But it’s all understandable. She’s had a lot to deal with making her disposition difficult to warm up to. And Ryan is too good to be true — and a little contradictory. For a young man so adamant about respecting women, he certainly has no problem participating in schemes that objectify them. There’s no problem asking a girl for her number, but to say you respect females then go all night collecting their digits for game and leaving them in hope of something you have no intention of giving is a bit hypocritical. But he was sweet, I’ll give him that.

This had potential. There were issues that were engaging and I hoped McGarry would’ve focused on Beth healing herself and her life a little more than Beth finding someone to save her. Don’t get me wrong, we all need help but…sigh. I could go on and analyze and deconstruct her character but that would both spoil and bore equally. I also think that I might’ve missed a layer of understanding…or a sense of familiarity because I hadn’t read the first book, meaning that there are backstories I wasn’t privy to. Bottom line is, this was a tricky book. Most of my book friends rate this highly. I rate it average. It all depends on you.

This review also appears on Goodreads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

53 Responses to “Dare You To: review”

  1. Michelle

    I know heaps of people loved Pushing the Limits, but it just annoyed the hell out of me, so I think I’ll definitely be skipping this one. Fab review though K! :)

  2. Nina

    I have to admit I enjoyed this a lot more than Pushing The Limits. Beth is a huge piece of work but once I got to know her I started to really like her (except for her stubborness concerning one particular detail).

  3. Barbara E.

    I enjoyed and appreciate the thoughtful review of Dare You To. It has inspired me to pick up the first book, Pushing the Limits, which I haven’t had passed up previously.

  4. nvlo

    I really enjoyed reading Pushing the Limits, I thought it was a great contemporary book, but the only character that didn’t convince me entirely was Beth, she was way too hard headed sometimes for me to like, and when I read McGarry was writing a sequel about Beth I had my doubts, plus when I read the book description and the name Isaiah wasn’t written anywhere and now that I read this review I just have to say —-> neeext.

    • K.

      I haven’t read Pushing The Limits but from what I’ve gathered, Isiah was quite the fan favourite. And here as well. I see why. I think I liked him the best. So I’m with you…neeext!

  5. erin

    Thanks for the great review! I haven’t read book 1 although I do have a copy. Definitely need to fix that : )

  6. Lisa (Lost in Literature)

    I’ve seen so many loving reviews it’s kind of nice to see your view. I did enjoy Pushing the Limits, though probably not as much as others. I’m still excited to read this one. Thanks for the honest review! :)

    • K.

      Aw, thanks Lisa. I feel the odd one out since there are such overwhelming numbers of positive reviews. And I just had to come along and rain on everyone’s parade :/ Thank you for appreciating it, though!

  7. Jany

    This looks lovely, really. I think I’m going to put this in my TBR pile

  8. Vivien

    I ended up really liking this read. I did love the first book as well, so I guess I am the target audience here. I can understand your frustrations. This is one that just hits close to home. I really identified with Beth. Her attitude was just..we’ll just say I could relate. But to my credit, I can be pretty morbid :p I didn’t love this as much as PTL but I didn’t have many faults. I do find that with contemporaries, it’s all up to the reader. Either you identify or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s usually difficult to enjoy the book.

    • K.

      I think a good book is anything that moves you. I’m…glad?…that you were able to connect with Beth…although, I hope, if you do relate to her the way I’m thinking, that there’s been a happy ending for you as well. I think contemporaries are tricky, too. Because it’s so close to us, as opposed to say fantasy, that it’s hit or miss much of the time. You either believe or you don’t. Other genres, there’s room for imagination. I hope Isiah’s book is much better..we’ll see if I check it out.

  9. Wendy Darling

    K, your review of this sequel highlighted pretty much my problems with the first book as well. Nothing surprised me about it, and unfortunately, I just didn’t like the main characters or love interest at all. Suffice to say I will be skipping this one, too!

    • K.

      Yeah, after seeing your rating, I kinda knew maybe there’s a pretty good chance that I will definitely have issues…haha! But, eh, you try right?

  10. Emma Snow

    I honestly have been wanting to read this series/companion series(?) for a while now. There are so many mixed reviews that I don’t know where to start. I haven’t read Pushing the Limits yet, though. But I might give it a try and check it out at the library. I don’t read much contemporary, but I’m trying to expand my horizons.

    Really great review, though! I’m definitely a fan of your review site now!

    • K.

      Emma, if you want to get into contemporary, I personally suggest Melina Marchetta, or Carolee Dean’s Take Me There, or Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. But if this tickles your fancy then, of course, I wish you well!! And thanks, we hope you come back soon :)

  11. Joyous Reads

    Great review, K. I wasn’t a fan of Pushing the Limits so I was already set on by passing this one. And yeah, that is just way too long for a contemporary romance.

  12. Krazzyme(Young Readers)

    2.5 ? WOAH! Hmm.. loads of people didn’t like the main characters of this one and I guess it will be predictable BUT I loved book 1 so I’m definitely going to give this a shot!

  13. Candace

    I know that a lot of people LOVED this book, so it’s kind of nice to get a different opinion. I’m not sure where I’ll fall but I’m not feeling a strong urge to read it at the moment. I also agree that that is too long for a contemporary book. But I haven’t read it yet, so maybe it’s not fair to say that.

  14. Kelly

    I really loved Pushing the Limits, so I was surprised to learn that this was Beth’s story and that she wasn’t falling for Isaiah. After how Pushing the Limits ended, I thought they were pretty much a done deal. I’m half tempted to treat Pushing the Limits as a standalone, because I’m worried that I won’t like Beth – for many of the reasons you listed – and that I’ll have a hard time empathizing with her.

    And 462 pages!? Why??

    • K.

      I didn’t hate Beth but she did get frustrating. And everyone seems to be surprised it isn’t Isiah she ends up with. Maybe McGarry has something special reserved for him :) And yes, that number of pages actually shocked me. Like my mouth fell open

  15. Sharon ObsessionwithBooks

    I loved Pushing the Limits but Dare you To, not so much. I’m not a fan of predictable, cheesy story-lines and I didn’t like Beth’s character at all in both of the books.

    I’m still excited to read Isaiah’s story.

    A wonderful, honest review!

    • K.

      I didn’t like this very much but I’m also still excited about Isiah :D

  16. Molli Moran

    Mmmmm. I’m going to read this one this weekend. I have hopes for it, but I’m trying not to get them TOO high, since sometimes sequels fail to hit the mark. I’m intrigued by Beth and I hope I like her story. I’m sorry it fell so short for you!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • K.

      Hi Molli. I’m glad I didn’t butcher the book for you or extinguish your excitement to read this. I hope its all you want it to be :D

  17. The Teen Book Guru

    As much as I thoroughly enjoyed and loved this book, I do see where you’re coming from. A lot of your points actually raced through my mind, but in the end the romance completely won me over. I understand how you might see it as a typical “dark” contemporary novel, and, I admit, there were a few times I found myself cringing at the overused clichés.

    I especially like what you said towards the end of your review, about how you wish it had been about more than just Beth finding someone to rely on, to “save” her, because (being a feminist) I despise the romantic books and movies today for making girls seem weak, and incomplete without a guy. But on the other hand, it was also kind of what made me fall so hard for this book; I hate to admit it, but I still dream of that Prince Charming and shit. It may be ridiculously soppy and what-not, but hey, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. :’)

    Such a shame that this one didn’t work out for you, K. Hopefully what McGarry has planned in the next installment about Isaiah will turn out better. Fabulous, honest review! :) x

    • K.

      The thing I just didn’t like is the fact that everyone else seemed to know what Beth should do except her BUT of course its different when you’re the victim. And its her mom…how could you abondon her no matter how off she is.

  18. Jasprit

    I actually didn’t enjoy McGarry’s first novel Pushing the Limits that much, so I’m glad that I decided not to pick up Dare to You. Predictable and cheesy plots are one of my pet peeves, so I think that I would have been left frustrated with this book too. Wonderful review K! :)

    • K.

      Skipping this is probably for the best, Jasprit…especially if you can’t stand of the things I mentioned :(

  19. Danielle

    ‘Dare You To gives you what you want, when you want. Which isn’t really what I wanted at all’

    Nailed. It.

    That’s how I feel about lots of these sexy, contemporary YA books at the moment (particularly those by indie authors). Sometimes it feels like the author is anticipating too much exactly what this (giggly) audience wants, and then they dish it up in spades (462-pages worth, whew!) – and, you’re right, that’s now what we really want at all. I think it’s not making the readers work for it, or something. It just isn’t quite right.

    Fab review.

    • K.

      Thank you, Danielle! It’s hard, though, because on the one hand, maybe we expect too much from writers. But on the other, we want to be blown away. At the same time, they might complain that they’re only catering to our desires…but then we reject them. It’s very complicated :/

      But I agree with you on all things said, especially the last part. I mentioned that this book is predictable — there’s no excitement in predictability…

  20. Katrina (athousand-lives)

    Yeah… I don’t think I’ll be reading this one at all. I thought the first one was just ok, a little bit disappointing for all the high ratings almost everyone gave it. Without having read it, I can understand what you mean about Beth looking for someone else to save herself. Nothing wrong with that but it’s all on you to help yourself. Thanks for the honest review, K!

    • K.

      Thanks, Katrina. I really didn’t want to be too critical because I know how many people are enjoying this but, unfortunately, this was what I wanted to say…actually there’s a bit more but I didn’t want to be “hatey”. This is a positive place :)

  21. Ning

    I was kind of hesitant to read this because i’m about to start this book and didn’t want my opinions swayed. I really like that you mentioned what didn’t work for you without giving too much away. I still can’t wait to read this and will reserve my judgement!

    • K.

      I hope I didn’t ruin any of the anticipation, Ning! I try not to read too many reviews on books I’m really excited to read. I hope you end up loving it :)

  22. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I actually liked this one more than Pushing The Limits. I didn’t really fall for Pushing The Limits like everyone else. I hated Beth in the first book but I understood her more in this one. I liked Ryan too. I felt really bad for Isiah though so I’m looking forward to his story.

    • K.

      I agree about Isiah and if I were Beth, I think I would’ve chosen him. But again, I didn’t read the first book so I don’t know their entire storyline. People are saying they’re so wrong but so right. All I know is that I was much more moved by Isiah than Ryan.

  23. Kim (YA Asylum)

    I haven’t read the first book, Pushing the Limits, but I’ve heard good things about it. This book sounds like it might have a few too many problems for my taste (and the cover doesn’t really appeal to me either). I agree that the word count is pretty high for a contemporary, and I’m sorry to hear that the issues in the novel aren’t explored as much as such a page count would sort of require.

    Oh well, not every book can be perfection — though I wish they were too. Great review :)

    • K.

      Oh my god, yes, about the cover! It is really, really not my taste. It feels like every other cover is the same.

  24. Keertana

    I always enjoy McGarry’s novels while I read them, but afterwards, I wonder why I liked it so much. All of them have so many flaws, and yet I do like the quick time-pass they provide. I don’t blame you for not enjoying this one, though. Great review, K!(:

    • K.

      Oh I know, Keertana. I read your review, haha! You’re one of the reasons why I thought I might like it. We agree on many things and I figured if you liked it, I would, too. Didn’t work out, though :S Next time!

  25. Alexa Y.

    I liked Pushing the Limits (the first book) a lot, even though I certainly had some issues with it. And I’m very curious to see how Beth’s story plays out in this one! I’m sorry that it seems like it ended up being one that disappointed you though :(

    • K.

      If you enjoyed Pushing Limits, Alexa, I do recommend reading this. I think fans of McGarry will like it.

  26. Mary @ BookSwarm

    You know, books like this really are so subjective. I adored her first book and am really looking forward to this one (a student snagged my ARC before I got to it…not that I’m begrudging or anything, especially since she loved it). It does sound like there’s some cheese when it comes to the lurve language and it IS pretty darned long but I’m hoping I enjoy it!

    Here’s to your next read being a FIVE!

    • K.

      Thanks you, Mary. I hope you love this more than the first one. As long as you’re ok with the concerns I mentioned you should have no problem :)

  27. LisaFicTalk

    That line you quoted from the book did come off as cheesy. You’re probably the first person I’ve seen to rate this book so low, and I appreciate that. It’s nice to see the highs and lows of a book instead of only the highs.

    Great review, K! :D

    • K.

      Thanks, Lisa :) and yes I think I’m one of the few to not fall for this book’s charm :/

  28. dreamsofawalrus

    Really enjoyed the review, as always! I might give it a shot when I feel like being 17 again and suspending some disbelief (“giddy book” is the perfect description for those books, though I’m a bit worried about the glorious muscles). My problem is that I hardly read contemporary romance unless there’s an element of supernatural in it. What do normal people even do with their lives?! (I kid, I kid… a little.)

    “My arc had 462 pages. 462. No contemporary novel should be 462 pages long. That’s high fantasy.”

    One thing I wondered–do you like YA fantasy that’s that long? I often find myself wishing that books like Shadow and Bone and Seraphina were longer, just because they can be and they’re good enough that I want them to last. Of course, if I REALLY wanted a long book I just ought to go into adult fantasy–but that comes with baggage too!

    • K.

      Haha! I don’t know what “real” people do either! Anyway, I love long books only if its justified and I almost always don’t find books of this nature to need that many pages. Fantasy is another story. I do S&S was like the Britannica because i love that series. Seraphina too but wasn’t that a long book? I’ve forgotten :)

  29. Karen

    I liked this one more than you but definitely not as much as PtL. I had a few problems with it too.

  30. selkiereads

    I really liked this book but I have to agree about the characters. I just couldn’t understand them sometimes and got so frustrated, but I acknowledged their reasons for being so.

    – Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

    • K.

      I definitely felt a little confused with the characters…more so Beth than Ryan. I just didn’t feel like she flowed very smoothly especially when she’d show her vulnerable side. I’m glad you liked it, though.