Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

I really enjoyed Katie McGarry's first book Pushing The Limits (Goodreads),  so when I saw Dare You To (Goodreads) on Netgalley I had to request a copy. Thanks to Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read it. It certainly did not disappoint and I'm now aching to read Crash into You (Goodreads), the next in the PTL series. (This is Isaiah moment in the sun!)

In Pushing The Limits we're introduced to Beth, a hardcore tough girl with drug problems and trust issues. To be honest, I didn't like her much, but not having had the easiest teen years myself, I understand it's often the most vulnerable kids who use the toughest shells to protect themselves. Beth definitely fits into this category.

Once a beautiful little blonde angel who loved pink ribbons, she now hides behind the F-word (strings of them), dyed black hair, and ripped clothes that reveal more than they cover. Her idea of a hot night out is smoking pot with her best friend Isaiah. On the face of it, she's definitely the kind of girl my mother tried to warn me against. Hell, she's the kind of girl I now warn my own kids about. 

But that is not all there is to Beth. Underneath all that venom, hate and insecurity, she's loyal (to a fault), brave and has heart the size of a house. Her entire existence revolves around protecting her mother from a particularly foul, abusive boyfriend. Beth will trade anything - including her own life if necessary - for her mother. It's due to that obsessive loyalty that Beth's uncle Scott rips her away from her mom, taking her to live with him. Like all defiant teenagers Beth spends the rest of the novel trying to get back. Of course, Beth doesn't see any of these amazing attributes in herself. As far as she's concerned, she's a total failure - a loser of note. It took Ryan to get her to see her worth and to clean up her act.

Ryan! What a great guy. He really grew on me, developing from a fairly shallow teen hottie to a man who is prepared to stand for what he believes. I really liked his character development. He too lives a double life. As far as everyone knows, he's Mr Perfect, the town golden boy headed to the baseball majors after high school. Little do they know he's carrying his own secret burdens. I so enjoyed watching him grapple with his issues, finally stepping up to the plate to claim his own life.

He and Beth meet over a dare - hence the name of the book. What follows is a roller coaster ride of a love story. Katie McGarry - the queen of teenage angst - definitely knows how to get the reader's toes tingling as she builds the romantic tension between her characters. 

But if Dare You To had just been a hot romance it would not have hit it with me. Like PTL, there is so much more to this story. McGarry spares no punches as she takes us deep into the heart of Beth's sordid past with her mother. Be warned, this book has it all: teen sex, homosexuality, homophobia, drugs, violence, bad language, teen drinking and prostitution. Meaty concepts for Young Adult, so this is definitely more of a New Adult read, but the book would be a lesser story without them. Each of these add a necessary layer, helping the characters grow, developing a believable love without the slightest taint of the insta-variety so common in YA fiction. 

One of the best parts of the story was watching the 'true' Beth emerge from her dark shell. That was truly heart-warming, proving yet again that we should not make snap judgements about people until we truly understand what drives them. 

So if you love gritty romances with great characters and a heart-stopping plot, you cannot miss Dare You To.

My only real criticisms relate to the writing style. At times I found it a bit disjointed, with strange jumps that pulled me out the story and left me wondering what was going on. It could be that the problems were just in the ARC and that they have been sorted out. I certainly hope so, because it was enough to rob the book of a star.

So talking of stars . . . how many? Four tingling heart throbs.


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