Monday, June 21, 2010
Review: Jennifer Echols, Going Too Far
*This review contains some mild spoilers*
Thanks to Amanda at Another Book Junkie for recommending this one. I read Going Too Far in one sitting last night (well, I may have gotten up once or twice for a Popsicle break. It's the first day of summer, after all!). After racing through J.R. Ward's Dark Lover earlier this weekend, a YA book about humans seemed like it would be a most refreshing change of pace. And it was. I basically enjoyed it.
There is plenty of lively banter between Meg and John, which leads them to have sizzling chemistry. I wouldn't say either character is particularly complex...but they do have distinct voices and react believably to the various hardships they've had to undergo in their lives. In this sense, the book is definitely above average in the genre.
Amanda was right, however, to warn me that it's no Perfect Chemistry. A trailer-park romance between a rebellious 17 yr old Leukemia survivor and a cop who arrests her for trespassing on a railroad bridge (while drunk and stoned), Going Too Far seems on the surface more original than Perfect Chemistry, a story about star-crossed lovers who bond in chemistry class.
Yet...Perfect Chemistry seemed more real to me than Going Too Far. In the latter, the main characters, Meg and John, are carrying some serious baggage, just as Brittany and Alex are in Perfect Chemistry. Meg suffers from claustrophobia, both in the physical sense of fear of closed spaces as well as an emotional claustrophobia, which leads her to avoid forming close relationships with anyone. She is reckless and impulsive, constantly seeking thrills through drugs, boys that are no good, and risky ventures like hanging out on the railroad bridge where four teenagers were killed tragically years before. She says she does these things "to feel alive" - and because nothing will ever seem dangerous to her compared to nearly dying of leukemia when she was 13.
John is the opposite: he's extremely intelligent and artistic and could have secured a scholarship that would have enabled him to escape from the small, redneck Alabama town they live in. But he chooses to stay in the small town and become a cop at age 19, a profession which he claims he wants to pursue without promotion for the rest of his life. He is not a risk-taker. Unlike Meg, who does dangerous things in a misguided attempt to feel alive, John accepts that he's basically dead, that his life will never get any better than it is now. He thinks this is a burden he has to bear, as penance for an old guilt (the cause of which is revealed late in the book).
So, predictably, John and Meg fall in love and each influences the other to overcome their fears and embrace a world of possibility and live happily ever after. That was the part that bothered me. The whole thing was just tied up way too neatly for my taste; it was too symmetrical. Dangerous, risk-seeking girl meets safe, boring boy. Both are terrified of actually living, because both have come close to death in their past. Both attempt to "live" in the wrong way. They force each other to come face to face with their darkest fear, and in doing so both immediately overcome said fear, putting it behind them forever, moving on to a life of eternal happiness (presumably).
Perfect Chemistry kept me guessing. The climax happened, and then it was still a number of months before Brittany and Alex were able to move forward. In Going Too Far, there's a very emotional scene at the end, in which the tightly controlled John finally snaps, and we think we're going to see some real emotions, some serious pain from him. But...he gets over it in the space of about 12 hours, does a full 180, overcomes all his fears, and embraces the life of opportunity he's been resisting since tragedy hit when he was 9 yrs old. It was just too easy and left a bad taste in my mouth.
On the plus side, John After reminded me of Dimitri Belikov of Vampire Academy, what with his rigid self control, his serious brown eyes that occasionally could be full of such warmth and love, and even his language, which was always short and to the point. I almost feel like Jennifer Echols was channeling my beloved Dimitri as she wrote this (or maybe I am just obsessed and will myself to see Dimitri everywhere). Meg, too, reminded me of Rose Hathaway sometimes, with her sassiness, her promiscuity, and her protectiveness of her friend Tiffany. I wonder if Jennifer Echols has read Vampire Academy...hmmmmm.
So, to sum up, an enjoyable read, definitely recommended--I just wish the end hadn't been so clean, quick, and contained.
Jennifer Echols, Going Too Far
MTV; Original edition (March 17, 2009)