Friday, May 10, 2013

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To by Katie McGarry
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...

I’ve mentioned before that I always make an effort to give every book a chance, and this novel proves I’m doing something right. I wasn’t a big fan of Pushing the Limits; in fact, it was probably the most disappointing debut I read last year. However, thankfully, with Dare You To, Katie McGarry shows not all writers suffer from the Sophomore Slump, and in fact, may actually improve in all aspects of their craft.

So. The difference between this book and her first? Well, to me, everything. McGarry managed to polish her storytelling skills, refine the dialogue (x10), and enhance the story in general, while still keeping that essence and distinctness that earned her fans everywhere with her debut.

Now for the story itself: If you read Pushing the Limits, you'll recognize Beth, the MC, along with some major characters from PtL; Noah and Echo make a few cameos to satisfy fans of book one, and Isaiah lovers need not worry as well since he too pops up a bit.

I can’t say whether or not my rating stands based only on my genuine enjoyment for the story on its own, or if the constant comparison to McGarry’s previous made it seem better in my eyes. Probably a mixture of both. But I can say there are definitely a few elements that helped it score major bonus points with me, exponentially increasing my enjoyment.

First and foremost, I love baseball. I come from a small baseball town that lives and breathes it. Most people think Texas is all about football, and yes, that’s pretty true, but where I live, attention is given primarily to baseball. (Especially because our high school football team sucks, but that’s besides the point.) There are very few YA books that entwine sports into their story’s focus, and even fewer (like, none) that feature baseball. So naturally, I was drawn to this title, and it was probably the reason why I chose to give it a shot in the first place, regardless that it was written by an author whose debut I didn’t love.

The two major issues I had with Pushing the Limits were: the romance and Noah’s voice. How can one love a contemporary romance without loving the hero or the love itself? You can’t. So what worked for this one? I guess I just enjoyed DYT’s male character, Ryan, over Noah, McGarry's previous. Ryan just seemed more authentic and wasn't spewing lame lines about how this girl was calling him like a siren and how much he wanted to slap her ass and so forth. (Those aren’t lines that make me swoon as one should when reading from the POV of a boy falling in love.)

Also, I liked that instead of playing off the whole bad boy trend that currently seems to be dominating the YA and NA market, McGarry swayed from the traditional route of a happy-go-lucky nice girl MC and made Beth the tough one, and Ryan wholesome and sweet.

Lastly, though she spiced things up steering clear from the usual, McGarry also proved that a little tradition works as well. This book includes some of my favorite romantic tropes ever, like 1.) the whole dare/bet thing. You know, where things always start as total shenanigans, but naturally, the game screws you over and it’s not fun and games so much anymore when emotions get thrown in; so many favorites have come of it (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bet Me, She’s All That...just to name a few), I’m always up for seeing another rendition.

2.) And of course, there’s the Hate-At-First-Sight. To say Ryan and Beth get off to a rocky start would be sugar-coating it a bit. But that was what made up the best of the story - watching (or reading rather) these two totally different people grow on each other, learn to get along with one another, like, and then ultimately love and trust was sweet. Their actual relationship didn’t even get going until exactly the 50% mark on my kindle, which I love since authors usually waste no time diving right into the I-love-and-need-you-now nonsense.

Though, as much as I enjoyed reading, like most books, it didn’t come without flaws. One of them being that Beth is really stubborn - frustratingly so, and it threw her and Ryan’s relationship a bit off kilter for me sometimes. She was almost too mean and awful for any sane guy to relentlessly pursue as he, of course, did. Also, things did get a bit cheesy at times, but it was (thankfully) nowhere near the cringe-worthy content PTL had going.

And the way Beth always came back to her mother and couldn’t seem to see that things were never going to change was difficult to read, but only because it was so realistic. No kid wants to give up on a loved one, especially a parent.

And finally, I would have loved to read more of Beth’s uncle Scott, and see her relationship expand with him and his wife. That could have added more to Beth's growth as a character, but I'm holding out hope we might still see something in one of McGarry's future books. There is another book in the series after all.

Overall, this was a great read and an excellent sophomore release. I have no doubt fans of Pushing the Limits will love this one, maybe even more - I sure did! McGarry's 1 for 2 for me, and I will definitely consider reading her next book.

3.5 stars!

Dare You To by Katie McGarry will be released on May 28, 2013.

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