Pushing the Limits is about a good girl and a bad boy and their romance in a high school setting, so I hope you'll forgive me for going into it thinking of a YA Walking Disaster. I was expecting a violent guy, a good girl who hides her real nature, and a weird, nonsensical situation that throws them together with light smexy times to follow. But this book has none of that - it's about two people who have lost the trust of everyone around them, who are genuinely broken and are trying to achieve 'normal', whatever that might be.I was sucked into the story from the very first chapter, in which Echo and her family meet a new school counsellor. The next chapter is told from Noah's point of view, but I didn't realise until a few paragraphs in! Then I rejoiced: dual perspective, yay! Both Noah and Echo are painted vividly and came across as realistic characters for me. I have to admit I didn't like Noah in the beginning, I feel the author placed too much emphasis on how he thought that all girls exist just to please him (he has this weird idea that wearing a tank top under the low-cut blouse is an invitation to ogle, which ... it's not!). But he eventually grew on me, and I could see he genuinely cared for his brothers and wanted the very best for them, and loved Echo a lot. Noah isn't exactly bad - he's just as lost as Echo but he's found a different way to deal with it.Echo is my favourite character - I think she's strong and deals with all the difficulties in her life well. She makes a few decisions I didn't agree with, but I liked it when her friends called her out on her bullshit and she actually took a few brave steps towards recovering because of it. Her character development is amazing, and I sympathised with her a lot even while shaking my head at some of the things she did. In particular, I hated her friends, even Lila the best friend. They were a poisonous bunch of vapid fools who encouraged her to date someone who pressured her to have sex just because he was a jock and it made 'sense'. I know that in high school there is a lot of pressure to be 'normal' and to not draw attention to one's self, but the whole situation made me very uncomfortable.I really liked the character of Mrs. Collins, the school counsellor. She wasn't traditional by any means, and by making her a clinical psychologist the author gave Collins a lot of freedoms and (unrealistic) tendencies, but I liked it. It was so cute that she approved of Noah and Echo's relationship when everyone else was too busy judging them.Aside from the romance, I loved how gritty this book is - it doesn't shy away from mental illness and depression, from PTSD, from the unfortunate realities of the foster care system. I was struck by how real Pushing the Limits feels, how it could have been set at any high school, how it could have been about people I went to school with. There is nothing contrived or unrealistic about the plot, it's a natural progression from hanging out, to finding out how much Noah and Echo had in common, to them becoming friends and helping each other overcome their fears and mistrust of others. And if there's kissing along the way, all the better!Pushing the Limits is less about the romance between a bad boy and a good girl, and more about how they have been let down by everyone that was meant to help them. It's less about the kissing, and more about how Echo and Noah grow, find strength in one another, and come to trust those around them. It's a realistic, edgy book that I really enjoyed, and I'm looking forward to reading Dare You To.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.