Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Book Four of the Pushing the Limits series
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means.
Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.
West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.
Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.
What I Liked:
This companion series and I have a love-hate relationship. Well, not exactly "hate" - I haven't rated any of the four books under three stars. Book one got five stars, book two got four, book three got three... and book four gets four stars. I haven't read the novellas (I'm very meh about novellas). Overall, this book had a lot of elements that I loved in the other books, minus a lot that I didn't love, plus a few that are new that I didn't like... but this is my second favorite book of the series, for sure.
West meets Haley when she jumps in front of his car, trying to get away from her drugged-up ex-boyfriend's brother. She was carrying her dad's prescription meds home, and they jumped her for them. And probably for more, given the past. But West is in just as deep as Haley, because West defended her that night, and effectively got himself a match against the ex-boyfriend's brother. Note about the ex-boyfriend (Matt): he's a boxer fighter thing, and he's part of Black Fire, along with his cronies and brother and whatnot. Haley's brother and cousin is of the rival team... and Haley used to be too, until she dated Matt. But Haley's not the only one with problems: West's sister in the hospital, West's dad kicks him out of the house, and West has a huge mess to deal with, in terms of the big fight in two months. Is it all worth it?
I didn't think I would like any males of this series more than I like Ryan... well, West and Ryan are now tied. I liked Isaiah, right up until he got his own book. I like Noah, but I like West and Ryan. I guess I like my refined bad boys, and not the actual "bad" bad boys. West isn't good though - he gets into fights and gets expelled from his rich-boy prep school and has a temper and too much pride to ask his father to let him move back in. Sleeping in his car, it is! Such pride, what a male ego.
No but seriously, I really like West. I think I understand him, even if I can't completely relate to him. He sounds like someone I know (here we go), except the guy I know gets along really well with his parents. Too well, I find. Good for him. Back to West. West is a golden boy fallen angel cat-ate-the-canary sexy and sweet and honest and devilish and flirtatious PHEW DID YOU GET ALL OF THAT. I like West.
I think I like Haley too! I struggled with Beth and Rachel, but I really liked Echo, and I like Haley. Haley isn't too bad a character, even if she is totally messed up and scared and a bit wimpy, in my opinion. She learns, she grows, her character development. It's all good. The same can be said for West, though I like him more than I like Haley, by a lot.
I love the romance, honestly. I couldn't necessarily say that about book three, but I enjoyed the romances in book one, and mostly, in book two. This romance was a bit easier to follow, less constrained by doubts on the female protagonist's part, and with more boldness on the male protagonist's part. Go West!
I like how crazy this book gets, without getting too crazy. In book three, the craziness felt like too much. All the drag-racing and threats and whatnot... it felt like too much, and definitely NOT easy to relate to. Even in books one and three, and this book, the content isn't easy to relate to, meaning the story, the plot, the nature of the story. Most people I know (and I know A LOT of teenagers and young adults) don't drag-race or sell hardcore drugs (though this is debatable) or fight (as in boxing) or fight (as in fistfights) or so on. But that doesn't make the stories enjoyable. For the most part. Back to the crazies - the climax of this book isn't super hyped up towards the fight - THANK GOODNESS. Not everything is high stakes fighting in this book, which is totally fine with me.
I love that college is such a huge part of each of these books, especially this one. My respect grudgingly went up several notches for Haley, because she is determined to put herself through college and pay for it herself or earn it herself (via merit or skill). I'm the same way. I refuse to let my parents pay for me to go to Johns Hopkins. Granted, Haley will NOT be attending such an expensive university. But given her circumstances, I'm proud of her. She's got the fighting skills for athletic scholarships, which is great.
Overall, I liked this one. After the disappointment that was Crash Into You (although I still gave it three stars), I was not entirely thrilled to read this one. BUT WEST. I liked West from the start. So many issues are tackled in this book, and I love how important relationships are, like brother-sister (Rachel/West, Kaden/Jax/Haley), father-son (West/Dad), and the good old couple (West/Haley). I'm very pleased with the development of relationships in this book! And with the book overall.
What I Did Not Like:
Like I said above, it's hard to relate to these characters and their situations. I'm not exposed to abuse, drugs, alcohol, violence, gambling, promiscuity, etc. - mostly because I don't put myself in situations to be exposed to these aspects of life. So, personally, I can't relate to people like Isaiah or Beth or Abby or Haley. Doesn't mean I can't like them or sympathize, but I can't put myself in their shoes. I would never be in their shoes, to begin with.
I wasn't Haley's biggest fan throughout the novel, though I understood her. I believe she hides and shuts down and runs away and it's such b.s., but I get it, more so with her than with Beth or Rachel or any of the other McGarry heroines. Not saying that I like this trope. Not every teenage girl handles problems like that.
Would I Recommend It:
If you've read any of the books in this series, it's totally worth it to read this one. And honestly, if you're like me, and thought that the series was on its way to a terrible slump, don't be afraid to read Take Me On! You should read book three though (as not-so-impressive as it was), because West and company are introduced in that book. Not in books one or two.
4 stars - a solid 4 stars. I'm glad I gave this one a shot, despite the slump in the series, after Pushing the Limits! I'm curious about McGarry's next contemporary books - so much contemporary. Be warned - McGarry's contemporary novels are NOT just romance-based. Romance, yes, but tough issues and a lot of highly flawed characters!
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