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jenryland

jenryland

Dare You To - Katie McGarry *Thanks to Harlequin for allowing me to read an advance e-ARC via Netgalley*If you love contemporary YA that leans toward NA -- romance that really ramps up both the emotion and the sexual tension -- you should definitely check out Katie McGarry's novels.Dare You To is a companion book to Pushing the Limits and focuses on Beth, a character from that book. I think it's preferable to read Pushing the Limits before Dare You To, but it's not absolutely necessary.I love odd couple romances, and Beth and Ryan are just that. She's angry and rebellious, while he's a talented baseball player and parent-pleasing kind of guy. However, it definitely took a while for me to feel any sparks or chemistry between the two of them, and I think that may have been the result of the whole "dare" motif. The dare/bet plot is a well-known one in teen movies and chick flicks like She's All That, Cruel Intentions, or How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It's a tried-and-true way to bring two seemingly mismatched characters together, to let them fall in love, and then let the reader watch the emotional fireworks as bet or dare is revealed.In the case of Dare You To, I thought the dare concept detracted somewhat from the main story. As the book opens, Ryan and his best friend Chris are having a contest to see who can collect the most phone numbers. Fine, except that Chris has a girlfriend and claims he's madly in love, and Ryan is supposed to be his best friend. Right off, I'm not favorably disposed to either guy. Chris dares Ryan to ask Beth for her number and -- to her credit -- she shoots him down. Then Chris proceeds to dare Ryan to get Beth to go out with him.The dare subplot did eventually fall by the wayside so the book could focus on all the other stuff going on. Just as in Pushing the Limits, there are Issues with a capital I: Beth's junkie mother, friction between Ryan's parents over his brother, Ryan's mean girl ex. All the characters have traumas and problems and resentments and loads of angst. Beth curses and rages and tries to protect her train wreck of a mother while Ryan tries to please everyone around him. Ryan tries to get closer to Beth, and she shoves him away. At times these kinds of books can get to be too much of an emo-fest for my taste, but I like the way that Katie McGarry allows the hard edge of reality to cut through all the emotional drama. She doesn't always try to tie everything up in a neat bow. For example, it's clear that Beth still isn't crazy about Echo, the main character from Pushing the Limits. Things stay unresolved with Beth's mother, and that felt realistic to me.And … what about Isaiah?I love that guy! For me, the most moving parts of Dare You To were the scenes between Beth and Isaiah, and I wish there had been more of them. I could feel the emotion between the two of them, and my heart broke as they tried to sort out their feelings for each other.