Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Double Review: Dare You To & Crash Into You

I read Pushing the Limits this past year, and I LOVED it! Noah's and Echo's story was just heartbreaking and beautiful and wonderful. So, I just couldn't wait to dive into the rest of the series. Beth and Isaiah were two characters whose pasts were a mystery and whose lives were fucked up. I wanted to learn more about them, and I wanted them to find the happiness that they deserved. 

***

Rating: 4 stars!
Dare You To follows the story of Beth Risk. A Skater girl with a sharp tongue and a tough attitude, Beth is a complete mystery. She's one of Noah's best friends, and she lives with her aunt and uncle. But in her story, Beth doesn't listen to anybody and tries to keep taking care of her deadbeat mother. It leads to a mistake, a record, and her Uncle Scott showing up and becoming her legal guardian. He brings her home to Groveton, hoping to start over. And that means giving up her old life. And Noah. And Isaiah

Beth has the worst attitude on the planet, and it almost seems too much sometimes. She has walls sky high and a cold demeanor that makes most people stay away. But not Ryan, the cocky baseball player who tried to get her number as a dare. He's arrogant, but he's also really sweet. He may have been talking to her because of a dare, but that quickly changes once he starts breaking down Beth's walls and finds the person inside. The little girl who used to wear dresses and ribbons and who loved the world. It's hard for anybody to want to dig deep because Beth sure as hell doesn't make it easy. She constantly pushes everyone away, but she underestimates the people who care for her and know that she can be that same little girl again. Beth just doesn't expect how hard it is or how much she does want to stay in Groveton. Or how hard it will be to leave her mom.
"You're a lot like that bird in the barn. You're so scared you're going to be caged in forever you can't see the way out. You smack yourself against the wall again and again and again. The door is open, Beth. Stop running in circles and walk out."
It takes Beth a long time to see, to finally see that she needs to let her mom go. It takes her uncle, the best friend she had when she was a little girl, and a jock to show her where she belongs. She just has to trust in them and take her happiness.

And Ryan wants to be that happiness for her. At first, this guy comes off as that stereotypical, cocky jock. He and his friends, Logan and Chris, like to dare each other. And the hardest one he's had to date? Ask out Beth and get her to say yes. And while it starts off as innocent, Ryan starts to fall for this complicated, miserable girl. She challenges him, annoys him, but most of all, she gets him. Because Ryan isn't perfect, and she's one of the few that see his imperfections and doesn't judge him for them. Everyone thinks that he's perfect, that he's got it all figured out, but on the inside, no one knows what's going on. He's more than just a pitcher, more than just a ballplayer. He has skills in writing, but his dad doesn't want him to go to college. It's his father's dream that he plays pro baseball straight out of high school. His family is screwed up, and Ryan feels like everything's falling apart. His brother's gone, his long-time girlfriend broke up with him, and scouts are starting to go the games. He's under a lot of pressure to be that perfect guy. And he finds himself with a lot of choices ahead. The most important involving Beth.
"Don't take what was beautiful between us and make it ugly." -Ryan
Their relationship is anything but simple and easy. Conventional. Everyone thinks Ryan's better off with "good girl" Gwen and Beth has zero trust when it comes to guys, thanks to the asshole who broke her heart when she was a freshman. But Ryan's determined to show Beth that he loves her and won't ever hurt her. And Beth is determined to find every reason she can that proves Ryan's the untrustworthy jock she wants him to be, because she doesn't know how to accept his love. Her insecurities, failure to trust, and her childlike love for her mother, the woman who was supposed to be taking care of her, were heartbreaking. 

But what really broke my heart were the scenes between Beth and Isaiah, and Noah. Scott made her break off her friendships with them when she moved to Groveton. But that doesn't stop her from still finding ways to see them. They're her best friends. But the distance is driving a wedge between them, and Ryan is driving a wedge between Beth and Isaiah. I was really missing the friendship between the three kids whose lives were bleak and lonely and dark before they found each other. I hope, in Isaiah's book, that the bonds will be glued back together again. :)

The character development, especially with Beth, was absolutely wonderful to watch unfold. I love reading about characters who can find the courage to take leaps of faith and fight to be happy. Ryan and Beth were both struggling with insecurities and family obligations, but with help from friends and family who want to see them succeed and be happy, they find the daring nerve to go after what they want. Dare You To was a wonderful book, full of happy and heartbreaking moments, self-discovery, and the courage to face your fears and take control of your life.


***

*I received a copy of this from NetGalley AND Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 stars!
Immediately after reading Dare You To, I just had to start Crash Into You. I've loved Isaiah since the first book, but he's still a complete mystery. A bad boy with a broken heart, Isaiah is now living with Noah in an apartment, and he's running low on rent money. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Isaiah takes to the streets to race. It's like a domino effect, and what happens afterward brings changes and heartache, but also healing and courage. 

It's there he meets Rachel Young, the charismatic rich girl looking for her first illegal street race. She doesn't belong there, in that world, or with Isaiah. But it doesn't stop him from wondering and dreaming when they help each other escape from the cops and spend a couple hours alone in his apartment. It's there when they discover that appearances are deceiving, for Isaiah is more than his tattoos and piercings, and Rachel is more than just a pretty rich girl who has everything she could ever want. It's a far cry from the truth, for both of them.

For Isaiah, he's struggling with his self-esteem and sense of self-worth. He's been bounced around in the foster care system, finally landing in a nice home where he found a family. People he could count on and who have his back. But for most of this novel, Isaiah takes on more burdens than he should, and he shoulders them alone. He needs rent money, but the race cost him more than he wants to admit to Noah. And when Eric, the King of the street, threatens him and Rachel, Isaiah finds himself becoming her savior. No one has ever needed him before, and the sweet girl who looked past his appearance makes him want to protect her. Take care of her. Between trying to graduate and get a good job to raising $5,000 in less than 6 weeks, it's a constant struggle. Add in his desire to be Rachel's knight in a shining black mustang, and Isaiah starts to wonder if he'll ever be good enough for anything. Especially when her parents would never approve, and every plan to raise the money for Eric is destroyed.

But Rachel doesn't want him to take on the load himself. She's been sheltered her whole life, and her family is extremely protective to the point of overbearing. When her older sister, Colleen, died of Leukemia, her parents tried for another girl. And when they had her, it made her mother happy, and the pain subsided. But Rachel has always been under an identity crisis, always struggled with wanting to make her parents proud by being like Colleen and wanting to become her own person without her sister's death shadowing her every move. She struggles, as Isaiah does, with self-esteem and self-worth and being weak. She wants to be treated as someone who's strong enough to stand on her own. It doesn't help that her family's treated her as an invalid her whole life because of her panic attacks. Rachel just wants everyone to see her as who she is and not what she was born to be. And with Isaiah's help, she finds the strength to be honest with herself and with her family. But it takes her way too long to come to these realizations! It almost destroys her life, and I didn't feel like her character development was strong at all. I think she, more or less, is still the same person she was when she met Isaiah. The only thing that's changed is that her family now knows about everything and knows how she really feels.

The side characters were all wonderfully fleshed out, more than the main ones! Noah, Echo, Beth, Logan, Gavin, West, Ethan, Abby. There were so many of them, and they all had their own personalities! I loved having Noah and Echo back in the story-line, as well as the addition of Logan. We first meet him in Dare You To as the daredevil best friend of Ryan. But he becomes an important part of Isaiah's and Rachel's story. And I so wish the author would give him his own book! I have a feeling she'd find a lot to talk about. :) And Abby! She was such a spunky girl, and I can't help but want to find out more about her. I also loved the additions of Rachel's brothers, not so much Gavin and Jack, the older ones who boss her around and aren't present. Her twin, Ethan, and her older brother West are the ones we see a lot of, especially since they are extremely protective of Rachel (too protective). I'm so excited for West's story, although I wanted more of Logan. There is just so much more to tell with all of these side characters' stories, and I just keep wanting more and more and more of themAnd when I start loving a side character more than the main one, I have a problem. I love Isaiah; however, Rachel was definitely not one of my favorite characters.

I just, don't think their relationship was believable. It progressed really fast, and it happened so suddenly. It was pretty much keeping with the theme of racing and rush and danger. It sort of worked, but these characters were just so self-deprecating and harmful to themselves. I feel like the problems with Eric could have been easily resolved if Rachel had been honest with her family from the start. I get why she wasn't, because she is always trying so hard to make her mother happy. But I know from experience that you should never underestimate your mother and her capacity to understand you. And with Isaiah, he starts shouldering all of the responsibility, and I just wanted to scream at Rachel for leaning on him too much. For not thinking about his life and his problems and only her own. Her panic attacks and her family problems just seemed miniscule in comparison to Isaiah's, and yet, she has the ability to do something about them even though she doesn't until he makes her. Rachel may have found a way to save them in the end, but she let Isaiah carry her way too much throughout this story.

As I'm writing this review, and I'm hitting this point where I start talking about the plot, I've come to realize that I didn't like this book as much as I thought I did when I finished it. The more I think about it, the more I'm disappointed. And the plot was a major reason why I'm disappointed. There was so much going on! Isaiah's rent situation, Colleen, Gavin's gambling problems, the panic attacks, the accidents, Eric threatening them to pay him $5,000 in six weeks or he'll use physical force, the speeches, Isaiah retaking the ASE, Zach, jealousy over Beth. The plot was very complicated in that a lot was going on at once and, many times, most of it faded to the background. Every once in awhile, a problem was dealt with, and at other times, it just slowly went away. And all of those car accidents were so random! Drag racing is dangerous, I know, but the accident at the end was completely unnecessary. Like a domino effect, one bad thing after another happens. But, somehow, everything turns out all right in the end. I felt that much of it was unnecessary to the plot and to the characters' development.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't enjoy Crash Into You like the first two, as this book took me so much longer to finish. I kept stopping it and starting other books because I didn't want to continue. And, this sucks, because I love Katie McGarry's books! I've truly enjoyed this series, especially Pushing the Limits, which will always be my favorite. I liked the side characters more than I did Rachel and Isaiah. As to Ethan and West, I wasn't always a fan of them for their asshole moves in making Rachel feel even more weak, but I also understood their fear that she was lying about her panic attacks. It's not something to take lightly! She also didn't give them much credit in that she still lied to them (and her parents) about everything! You know who told her family about the deal with Eric? Fucking Isaiah! She got off squeaky clean with that bullshit. I'm surprised her parents never demanded more information from her. And I also didn't care that her brothers were being jerks and that her parents weren't listening to her, because Rachel never gave them a chance to do anything differently! She just assumed no one would listen to her and that they'd see her as the weak person she really is. And Isaiah's family? Yeah, nothing there. I don't believe for a second that he and his mom could be talking that soon after he swore to have nothing to do with her. Not to mention, his lying to Noah and Echo pushed them away for most of the book, too. 

I'm so damn conflicted! I absolutely loved Pushing the Limits and Dare You To, but this one disappointed me so much. Everything was tied up too nicely in the end, the two main characters and their relationship was more drama-filled than anything, and the plot was like trudging through muddled waters. I had such high hopes for Crash Into You, but I was promised more, and I didn't get that. It just sort of crashed and burned like Isaiah's mustang. I still liked it and I'm giving it 3 stars, but because of how much I loved the first two books, it was just incredibly disappointing.