Uh. Wow. Just wow.
To be completely honest, I was incredibly disappointed when I learned Dare You To was going to be about Beth. Beth was irritatingly prejudicial, unfairly harsh, and incredibly hostile in Pushing the Limits. I didn’t like Beth. I didn’t like her at all. And upon learning that this book was NOT about her and Isaiah, I especially didn’t expect to like her without him to soften all her rough edges.
So I didn’t expect to discover that I did, in fact, like Beth. I didn’t expect to end up loving her character. I didn’t expect to love Ryan, and to love their story more than Noah and Echo’s.
Yeah. I know. But I did.
I think a lot of my love for this story originated in Ryan. Noah, Beth, Echo, and Isaiah are characters with sharp edges. And even though they make you want to know them, it’s harder to know them. Loving them requires a little more effort, peeling back their tough facade takes a little more work. It’s not a bad thing. Just an observation about these characters, and really, it’s what makes me love them all the more.
But though he’s also got his fair share of issues and problems, Ryan is warm, friendly, more open and outgoing and instantly lovable. He has this “never say die” attitude, a confidence, a patience, and a mischievousness that I found incredibly charming. And his determination to win Beth over was kinda… adorable. As I said, he comes with his own pile of baggage, and he’s certainly not perfect. But he tends to be a more optimistic, happier person – a noticeable contrast to Beth’s darker “I-don’t-give-a-flying-pig-crap-so-leave-me-alone” persona. But just because Ryan is more personable and doesn’t share that same bad boy persona that Noah has, doesn’t make him less tough. Dude can hold his own. Dude is definitely tough. And seriously, he’d have to be to keep pursuing Beth. She’s a bit of a ball-buster after all.
Which brings us to the girl in question. As I said before, after Pushing the Limits I wasn’t Beth’s #1 Fan. She was rude, crass, unkind (and at times cruel), purposefully abrasive, totally in your face, and seemed to be a master of self-destructive, self-sabotaging behaviors. And while some of this is just… Beth, It becomes clear very quickly that she’s amplified some of these qualities in order to build a shell around a broken, lonely heart. She’s been hurt too many times to count by the people who should love her most, and over the years has transformed into this caustic, angry girl who doesn’t trust people, who won’t let people in, and even more, who is afraid to love people. Seeing it all from her perspective made me sympathize with her, though she still had me going, “Whoah there!” and questioning many of her decisions and her judgment. She’s a very flawed character, but seeing her life through her eyes gave me an appreciation for Beth, for what she’s been through, and ultimately made me love her.
As I’ve said in my review of Crossing The Line, I love Katie McGarry’s romances because it’s not just about the romance. It’s about the connection between two people initiating a change on an individual level. Katie’s stories are about pain, and healing, and acceptance, and forgiveness; they’re about moving on, and moving forward, finding a place, and becoming a stronger version of yourself. And it’s just something I appreciate about her books; for all the conflict and drama and bad stuff, there’s also hope.
Annnnnd it’s also about kissing ‘n stuff, which you know, I also like. And geez-oh-man, Katie does that well too. The chemistry between Ryan and Beth is fantastic – the banter, the fighting, the tension, the interactions in general. It’s pretty wonderful.
As far as the story goes, it’s a hard story and a raw story. It’s a page-turner that had my nose firmly glued to my Kindle. While, I did correctly guess the climax of the book early on – and it’s not really that hard to see coming – the getting there and how it played out wasn’t quite what I expected, which I liked.
Overall, Dare You To took me by surprise. I went into this book with a lot of (ridiculous) apprehension because of my attitude toward Beth. But Katie McGarry took my assumptions, worked her literary magic with a novel that reminded me there are two sides to every story, and I emerged even more in love with this series than I was before.
P.S. – I’m totally wanting Logan to have his own book. Who’s with me???