{Review & Giveaway} PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry

10:33 PM Posted by Bonnie @ A Backwards Story

Want a gritty new book to love while waiting for something new from Lauren Oliver?

Stay tuned after today's review at the bottom of this post to enter to win your own copy of the buzzworthy PUSHING THE LIMITS!  Today may be my birthday, but HarlequinTeen and I are gifting one of you with this incredible, hard-hitting novel!

Also, did you know there's mythology in PUSHING THE LIMITS?  It's true!
Check out my Mythological Mondays post!

Another cool thing?  Candace's Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and at The Bewitched Bookworms have put together a PUSHING THE LIMITS Read-Along from July 31st to August 28th, including a live Twitter chat with author Katie McGarry!  
Click here for more information!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

"MY FATHER IS A CONTROL FREAK, I hate my stepmother, my brother is dead, and my mother has...well...issues. How do you think I'm doing?"

(Page 1, US hardcover edition)

While I've always been more of a fan of fantasy than I have contemporary, especially teen contemporary now that I'm no longer a teen, I've been trying to read more in this genre.  PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry has been garnering huge amounts of advance buzz this summer, the like of which I haven't seen since Stephanie Perkins released ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.  It took me a long time to pick up ANNA because I didn't like the cover or the title and, let's face it, I thought it was pure romance, which I really don't read.  But it was devastatingly good and stuck with me long after the book ended because the character development was so superb.  PUSHING THE LIMITS also has a very romantic cover, so I overlooked the book when I first saw it online and I ignored the initial buzz.  I read an interview that another blogger had done with McGarry and became intrigued.  When publisher HarlequinTeen offered me a review copy and a giveaway copy, I jumped at the chance to see the book everyone is talking about.  I'm not going to make the mistake I did with ANNA and judge this book by its cover.

I'm so glad I read this.  As soon as the book arrived, I dropped what I was reading (Which turned into a DNF anyway, so I'm glad I dropped it...*cough*) to pick up PUSHING THE LIMITS and I devoured it.  It was my day off, so I had plenty of time to read, and I stayed up late to finish.  It was that good.  Like the way Perkins developed characters I became enamored with when reading ANNA, so too did McGarry.  Plus, PUSHING THE LIMITS is an issues book.  Personally, I love books full of hard-hitting issues because they keep my attention more than a straight-forward romance ever could.  Books with issues are the sort of contemporary novels I love best.

Ignore the deceptively romantic cover.  All of that romance came at a high price.  Told in alternating points of view between main characters Echo and Noah, both characters are incredibly damaged at the novel's start.  Echo's older brother died in Afghanistan, which was a huge blow to her family.  Her mother, who already suffered from mental illness, did something devastating, something that left scars on Echo despite the fact that her mind has repressed the memory.  Noah, on the other hand, is an orphan.  His parents died in a tragic house fire and his two younger brothers have been taken away from him and put into separate foster housing.  Both Echo and Noah had so much taken from them and have gone through so much ever since their respective tragedies.  Despite being from different paths in life, they find one another and learn how to heal, how to let go, how to move on, how to embrace the future and leave the past behind.  The journey these two embark on is incredible and by the novel's end, both have come so far.

It's hard to describe PUSHING THE LIMITS without giving things away.  All I can say is that McGarry, despite this being her debut novel, is a pro at layering and building up the development of her characters.  Their world is real, and it's so easy for readers to get lost in the journey.  The book has very raw, realistic emotions reminiscent of teen contemporary queen Simone Elkeles, who actually has a blurb on the dust jacket of PUSHING THE LIMITS.  While most of McGarry's secondary characters fall to the wayside (it isn't, after all, their story), it's interesting to see that she'll focus on one of these characters in the 2013 release of her next novel, DARE YOU TO.  While the character isn't one I necessarily gravitated to the first time around, it will be interesting to see how McGarry gets into her psyche and whether or not she can make me care the way she did when I read about Echo and Noah.  I'll willing to take that chance and find out.  Are you?
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover WITHOUT the dust jacket.
Image from Katie McGarry's blog b/c I'm LAZY, lol.
If I had seen this cover on the shelf and knew nothing about the book, I probably wouldn't have picked up PUSHING THE LIMITS.  The cover looks very light, and there are many YA contemporary novels with couples against a locker, so it doesn't really stand out.  Most recently, KEEP HOLDING ON by Susane Colasanti comes to mind, and this book also has a misleading cover since it's full of hard issues.

At the same time, the romance that builds between the two main characters is an important part of the story and the character development, so I can see why they went this route.  Plus, the cover was designed with darker, grittier colors and a punch of silver, so the coloring stands out.  I love that the female model has curly red hair like Echo does, too.  Win!

The interior of the design is fabulous.  If you take off the dust jacket, you see a full locker-sized image of the cover that spans the front cover, spine, and back cover.  Each chapter alternates between Echo's and Noah's POVs, and each character has a unique font well-suited for his/her personality:

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Authors: Katie McGarry
Release Date: Out July 30, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Received: Received for Review

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Now it's your turn. 

 You have until August 15th to enter to win the awesome PUSHING THE LIMITS by debut author Katie McGarry. 

 Good luck!

Spotlight on LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans

10:19 AM Posted by Bonnie @ A Backwards Story

Spotlighting the upcoming dystopian 
with a fabulous design,
LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans!

Presenting Lenore was one of the first book review blogs I ever stumbled across, and through it, Lenore introduced me to a bunch of titles I read and loved, especially dystopians.  I was so excited for her when I heard that she got a publishing deal, and LEVEL 2 sounds awesome!

The cover's awesome, too.  Check out the full spread:

Um, click this to see a MUCH bigger image!
Lenore and  her publisher Simon & Schuster recently revealed the cover in an awesome video (And I'm pretty sure some of that footage is from the making of the book cover, no less!)

If you're like me, you love a good book covers.  Because I love covers, I also love reading interviews with cover designers.  Check out Lenore's interview with LEVEL 2 cover designer Lizzy Bromley! (Bromley also designed the amazing covers for Lauren DeStefano's THE CHEMICAL GARDEN Trilogy!

After reading that interview, I love this cover even more!  I love the way the colors pop and work together, creating an eye-catching image.  The model looks like she's in motion and about to break out of the image.  And I really like the dots representing the hives.  This cover would have me pick the book up blind to find out more, and I'm even more eager to read it now after seeing all this!

LEVEL 2 is coming January 13th, which feels really far away.  Why can't it come out, say, tomorrow?

Vote for Alex on the YA Sisterhood Crush Tourney!

9:14 AM Posted by Ella Preuss

The 2nd YAS Crush Tourney is on, and Alex is competing against Zachary Moore, and he's losing! 

We need to help him win! Go vote for him now! 

You need some help in making the decision to vote for him? Then why don't you read these:
“Everyone is asleep. They've all been asleep for years. You seemed ... awake.' Alex is whispering now. He closes his eyes, opens them again.'I'm tired of sleeping.”
“And I love you too.” His fingers skate the edge of my jaw, dance briefly over my lips. “You should know that. You have to know that.”
(quotes chosen by the YA Sisterhood)

Figment invites you to a chat w/Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan and Scott Westerfeld!

5:14 AM Posted by Ella Preuss

Don't miss Figment's upcoming all-star chat: Writing with Friends: How to collaborate on a novel while not losing your mind (or your pal)!  
Authors Justine Larbalestier (Liar) and Sarah Rees Brennan (The Demon's Lexicon) recently joined forces to write Team Human. Through emails and iChats, the two writers worked together to write this very funny novel about Mel Duan, a whip-smart high-schooler trying desperately to keep her best friend from falling in love with the wrong guy--a guy who just happens to be a vampire.  
On July 8 at 8:00 pm, the authors are coming to Figment to discuss the tricky task of collaboration. How do two people create one cohesive voice? How do you find the right writing partner? And who gets credit for the best lines? 
Joining them as host of this rousing live web chat is none other than beloved bestselling author Scott Westerfeld (aka Justine's husband)! In the second half of the chat, the three superstar authors will take questions from the audience. And in the meantime, to get ready to talk collaboration (and vampires!), take a voyeuristic peak into one of Justine's and Sarah's writerly iChats and vote in our very scientific vampire showdown poll. [from Figment]
Sounds awesome, right? I don't think I can make it, but I thought you guys might!

Take a look at the trailer, if you haven't seen it already:

Have fun,

Cover Reveal: SEVER by Lauren DeStefano

9:59 AM Posted by Bonnie @ A Backwards Story

The much anticipated cover reveal of SEVER, the final book in Lauren DeStefano's THE CHEMICAL GARDEN Trilogy, dropped last week!

Click image to view full-size!

SEVER by Lauren DeStefano

WITHER's Copyright Page!
Even this has incredible design!
While I'm not a fan of that shade of green (especially with all the green in the image that's blending in), colors often look different in final form.   In person, it may quite possibly be stunning!  At the moment, however, I'm "meh" over the green.  It's amazing to see how different the model looks in this image compared to the first two.  Plus, she looks...happy?  So that's something!  The bird may not be the same one from the first cover, but it's free now, which is saying a lot.  Her white dress symbolizes purity and freedom, too, plus she's holding her wedding ring in her hand (And her hands look empty if you're looking at a smaller version of the cover, I know).

I always like how MUCH is going on in these covers and always want to know more about the individual objects lying around.  This series still has one of my favorite cover/interior treatments for font and design.

I have to say, however...  I still like the original jacket the best of the three:

What are your thoughts on the new cover?  
I can't wait to read this!!