Review: Dare You To (McGarry)

AUTHOR: Katie McGarry
SERIES: Pushing the Limits, book 2
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen
ISBN: 9780373210633
PAGES: 304
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: contemporary romance
SETTING: Louisville, Kentucky

SUMMARY: Ryan and Beth are complete opposites. Ryan is the cute, popular high school athlete who lives in a beautiful house in the Kentucky countryside with his successful, perfect family. Beth lives in the filthy underbelly of urban Louisville and tries desperately to protect her junkie mother from her abusive boyfriend. After Beth takes the fall for her mother’s actions, Beth’s uncle shows up with a custody order. As long as Beth goes quietly to live with him and tries to start her life over, he promises not to tell the police what he knows about Beth’s mother.

ROMANTIC HEAT: Like August in Texas! Turn up the AC!

WHAT I LIKED: So much to love! Dare You To is a character-driven story about Noah, Isaiah, and Beth, three friends who live in Beth’s aunt’s basement. All three have serious family issues that caused them to live outside the view of their legal guardians and Children’s Services. We read Noah’s story in Pushing the Limits, and now, we get to read Beth’s story in Dare You To. Like Noah, Beth is tough and does not want to let people get close to her. Her dedication to saving her mother is both sad and admirable.

Isaiah broke my heart, and I am glad the third installment, Crash Into You will be his story. My NetGalley copy includes the first two chapters of Crash Into You, and while I wasn’t as excited about the first two chapters as I was about the preview of Beth’s story, I will definitely be reading Crash Into You when it comes out.

While I hated his parents, I loved Ryan, whose broken family is nowhere near the image of perfection his parents put forth. Ryan is a perfect complement to Beth–he’s just as stubborn as she is and understands her fear of trusting others. His attempts to “wow” her are well-thought and sweet.

Alternating voices! As with Pushing the Limits, we get the boy’s and the girl’s viewpoints. Love, love, love!

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: This is going to sound like I didn’t enjoy the book when I really did, but these are some things that bothered me as I read…

So much drama! A lot of the beginning drama felt unnecessary, and the story would be stronger if some of it were cut or condensed (maybe it was? NetGalley copy was 478 pages; published copy will be 304 pages). Thankfully, the pace eventually picks up considerably. While I put the book down several times during the first half, I zipped through the second half.

The dare-to-ask-the-scary-chick-out-then-fall-in-love-with-her-then-it-comes-back-to-bite-you plot is at least as old as Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew). How many books and movies for teens have this same storyline? How many have the same stereotypes?

The high school rumor drama seems overblown. I’m sure some kids might act that way toward Beth, but it seems the entire school is against her. I would think most high school students would either think she’s majorly cool or would just steer clear of her altogether.

Though I believed in Beth’s overwhelming drive to save her mother, Beth’s constant self-sacrificing got on my nerves. It’s believable that a teen girl would think her love and desire to change things would save her mother from herself, but I thought Beth’s behavior was over-the-top. Beth’s mother disappoints her daughter over and over and over. Every time Beth goes to help her mother, Beth puts her own life in danger. I get that the family is dysfunctional and Beth isn’t thinking with the mind of an emotionally-stable person, but I thought Beth would get a clue about it long before she did. I also kept wondering why she worried so much about her mother going to jail. Wouldn’t Beth’s mom be safe from the abusive boyfriend in jail? The drugs would at least be harder to obtain, and she would get three meals a day. And even the dirtiest jail cell would have to be cleaner than where she was living. I know that jail isn’t a picnic, but this woman clearly cannot take care of herself. Jail might have been just what Beth’s mother needed.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite a crazy ton of drama, Dare You To is a fun and dramatic successor to Pushing the Limits that I know will be popular with young adult readers. McGarry’s books can be read in any order; DYT does not give anything away from PL except the fact that Noah and Echo end up together, which readers will know from reading the PL blurb.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Sadly, we can’t get it–the mature sexual content, serious drug use, and lots of profanity make it better for high school readers.

READALIKES: Hundred Oaks series (Kenneally), Perfect Chemistry series (Elkeles), Pushing the Limits (McGarry), Leaving Paradise and Return to Paradise (Elkeles)


  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 3/5–Lots of great books like this one available
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5–slow beginning
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5


  • Language: very high–lots of fu**, sh**
  • Sexuality: very high–(contains some spoilers–highlight the text area to see them) plenty of kissing (horizontal and vertical), characters discuss and have intercourse, purchasing of condoms, remembered intercourse with another person, characters called “whore”, references to prostitution, references to erection, characters kiss with shirts off the first time they go out together
  • Violence: moderate–(again, spoilers–highlight text area to see) fighting, discussion of characters having guns, a memory of holding a gun to a young child’s head, the fighting gets bloody and potentially deadly near the end
  • Drugs/Alcohol: very high; teens drink at parties, (spoilers)… major drug abuse by Beth’s mother including cocaine, heroin, marijuana; mother’s boyfriend is a drug dealer; neither Beth nor Ryan do drugs in the story (Beth craves marijuana at a party but does not do it)
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