Book Review: Dare To You by Katie McGarry

‘Dare To You’ is Katie McGarry’s follow up to her debut novel ‘Pushing the Limits’ (which I personally loved!). It’s extremely well written, humorous, complicated, grab-you-by-the-shoulders-irresistable, emotional and heartbreaking; I really enjoyed it.

In ‘Dare To You’, Beth’s wealthy Uncle strong-arms her into leaving her aunt’s basement and her mother (a drug addict who lives with her abusive boyfriend) behind, to return to live with him and his wife in a nearby town. Here she meets Ryan, who has family problems of his own. The ‘dare’ which starts the plot ball rolling is between baseball player Ryan and his friends – I’ll say no more than that.

I was not a big fan of ‘Skater Girl’ Beth in ‘Pushing the Limits’ as she appeared very hostile and judgemental, but ‘Dare To You’ revealed her to be a wonderful and worthwhile main character. Ryan, likewise, was well drawn and a great mind to step inside of. One of the things that I think makes Katie McGarry’s novels so strong is her commitment to switching between the points of view of her two main characters, much like authors such as Simone Elkeles. Some female author’s don’t handle male ‘voices’ very well, but Katie does just fine (oh yes!).

At the beginning of the novel I found Beth’s devotion to her mother hard to credit in the face of all the strains on their relationship – not least her mother’s seeming disregard for her – especially when Beth puts up such a ‘hard’ front when facing the rest of the world, but as the novel progressed and we received more information about their relationship Beth’s almost blind loyalty started to make sense and I liked her for it (rather than finding it frustrating).

One of things I would have liked to see were more scenes between Beth and Lacy, but the lack of these kept the reader firmly focused on the development of Beth’s romantic relationship with Ryan (so I guess they would only have slowed down the pace of the novel if they had been present). This was not a short novel, it was well conceived and plotted and the story felt quite rounded – so there wasn’t must space for flights of fancy in it, and we did see plenty of Ryan and his buddies interacting (only Beth and Lacy drew the short straw time wise).

I was worried initially, after a flowery speech from Ryan, that there would be too much baseball in this novel for me, but in the end there was hardly any. (If you like sports and teen YA romance handled together well also check out Miranda Kenneally’s ‘Catching Jordan’.) Now violence and nitty gritty poverty was another story, there are mentions and there are scenes, but the main messages in this book and outcomes are all positive and well handled, so older teens should be fine with this one. Also, as with ‘Pushing the Limits’, the bedroom scene was edited out (but alluded too – you knew what had happened).

Ryan and Beth were an interesting pair and the way they changed one another’s perspectives was heartwarming (Ryan’s regarding his brother especially). I had thought Beth would end up with Isaiah when reading ‘Pushing the Limits’. I am not convinced she wouldn’t have been able to address her problems with his ‘help’ instead of Ryan’s, but I did enjoy this novel as it was written and now I’m looking forward to book number three when Isaiah gets his Happily Ever After.

I liked the first book slightly more, probably due to its urban setting, but this follow up is equally well written and just as emotionally engaging. Pour yourself a hot chocolate and curl up with this on a comfy couch to escape the snow… (That’s what I did!)

Verdict: sizzling YA romance suitable for fans of Jennifer Echols, Simone Elkeles and Miranda Kenneally.

– This review is regarding an ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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