I don’t know if you remember, but I really loved Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. It was the book that made me admit I liked reading contemporary. It was a weird realization — I was pretty sure that if there were no explosions or dragons or magic or aliens, it probably wasn’t the story for me. But nope, that’s not true at all. I loved Echo and Noah, and the beautiful, bittersweet romance that developed between them. When I heard there were going to be sequels, I was excited, but nervous that Katie would go in and introduce more drama and tension for this couple that, in one book, had enough drama and tension for a lifetime.
I needn’t have worried. Dare You To follows one of PTL’s secondary characters: Beth. And this created a whole new set of worries. Beth was an interesting character in PTL, to be sure, but did I want to read an entire book about her? She wasn’t really all that likable.
But ultimately, I decided I trusted Katie. If she could make me love contemporary, surely she could make me love Beth.
The Plot (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…
When I started reading Dare You To, I was a tad on the worried side. Like Pushing the Limits, the story is told from two perspectives. We open with Ryan, and I was not too fond of him. He seemed exactly like the type of guy I steered clear of in high school. So I wasn’t sure I’d want to spend an entire book with him.
Then we moved to Beth, who was every bit as abrasive and argumentative and damaged as she was in Pushing the Limits. She made bad decisions and was self-destructive and harsh, and I was concerned.
But I knew from PTL that Katie McGarry is adept at taking characters from uncomfortable situations and making them punch me right in my tear ducts, so I persevered. It didn’t hurt that Dare You To was told with the same flowing, evocative prose that caused me to devour Pushing the Limits in just a couple days. And it wasn’t long before I was completely swept up in Beth and Ryan’s story, rooting for characters who I didn’t even like in the beginning. Soon, the pages were flying by, and during the times when I had to reluctantly put the book down for things like parenting and housework, Beth and Ryan stayed with me.
The verdict? I think I loved Dare You To even more than Pushing the Limits. It tugged my heartstrings left and right, made me smile and gasp and cry. By the end, I was completely in love with Beth and Ryan, as well as much of the supporting cast. Yes, there were moments when I wanted to throttle both of them (especially Beth), but only because they stayed so very true to themselves, and sometimes real people do things that are throttle-worthy. But most of the time, it just wreaked complete and utter havoc with my emotions, in the best possible way.
This book is a bit…ahem…hotter and heavier than PTL, and also manages to go a bit darker, a bit more dangerous, a bit more raw. It takes all the things I adored about PTL and amps them up, but in new and refreshing ways. It’s a fabulous follow-up to Pushing the Limits, but will also stand just fine on its own if this is the first of Katie McGarry’s books you’re trying. I will say, as with Noah in PTL, some of Ryan’s inner monologues can begin to smell a tad like Roquefort (read: cheesy), but I was sucked into the story enough that I didn’t care. Dare You To kept me blissfully engaged from beginning to end. If you enjoy emotional, butterfly-inducing YA contemporary romance that doesn’t shy away from some heavy issues, I recommend Dare You To wholeheartedly.