This book is a companion story to McGarry’s previous book Pushing the Limits (see my review here.)
In Pushing the Limits, although the story was mainly concerned with Noah and his girlfriend Echo, we also got to know Noah’s foster siblings, Beth and Isaiah. Dare You To is focused on Beth, and a third book, Crash Into You, will tell Isaiah’s story. Most impressively, the main characters in this second book don’t “sound” like the main characters in the previous one.
Beth, 17, is a tough, punk-looking girl with “attitude, nose ring, and a sneer that can kill on sight.” Yet there’s something about her that appeals to Ryan Stone, a senior at a Kentucky high school and the baseball team’s star pitcher. As with the previous book, we can guess early on that both of these protagonists are actually good kids, who have adapted in different ways to painful circumstances at home. We learn their stories in chapters that alternate between each point of view, sometimes covering the same events, a nice feature which is done very well.
Beth has good reasons to have put up walls against feeling any emotions except anger. As she observes, “If I don’t feel, I don’t hurt.” For Ryan, whose home life is way better than Beth’s – yet also painful – baseball isn’t just a game; it’s the only place he feels like he belongs. It’s inevitable that the two of them see through their differences to all they have in common, and fall in love.
But the road is far from easy. Beth’s past keeps creeping up on her, threatening to destroy all of them. Ryan has to find the courage to help Beth by being true to himself.
Evaluation: Yes, this series is published by Harlequin Teen, and the books are properly classified as YA “romances”, but don’t let a possible Fear of Fluff stop you from trying these books. They are far from lightweight, dealing with very serious, adult issues. The writing is solid and the books are full of “good” messages. In Dare You To, Ryan is probably a little too perfect, but that’s the only way, it seems to me, in which fantasy overtakes reality in this book.
Published by Harlequin Teen, 2013
Note to Parents: There is “bad” language, but it is generally accompanied by protests from loving, caring adults. There is an occasion of hardly-described (and very protected) sex. Like the earlier book, this one offers a very positive perspective on respecting girls’ right to choose.