When I first heard of Dare You To, I was apprehensive about the story. It is the follow up novel to Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry and is the second book in the series. The main protagonist, Beth, doesn’t portray herself in the best light in Pushing the Limits, and it seemed Isaiah, a guy who seems to be constantly saving her, was destined to be the hero.
But Dare You To challenged me in every way possible – it wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. It opened my eyes to how much we don’t see and showed me the lies we can trick ourselves into believing whilst teaching me what true love really means.
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…
This is not just a story about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks making it with the guy from the right side of the tracks. This is really about Beth and Ryan learning to be adults, make decisions for themselves, not believing in the self-doubt, determining their own values and moral code, learning what it means to care for someone but also to be brave on their own.
No matter how amazing Ryan is, Beth is the star of this book. She’s so shard on the outside, constantly pushing at people she needs then relying on the wrong ones in ways that are hurtful whilst simultaneously going through her life trying not to need anyone. But I loved her challenging attitude.
When I met Beth in Pushing the Limits, I wasn’t sure I liked her. And she may be characterised by some as an unlikeable protagonist. She is cynical, mouthy, and often making impulsive, emotion based decisions. However, like Ryan, once you really see her, you can’t help but fall in love with her.
Ryan’s point of view opens the book and I was so disappointed that her pairing wasn’t Isaiah. I adored Isaiah (see Isaiah’s story here) – he’s one of my favourite characters in McGarry’s series. But as Dare You To unfolded, it was crystal clear why Isaiah couldn’t have been her hero.
This is what McGarry teaches most in this book, and what I believe to be the novel’s deeper message. Isaiah wasn’t have challenged Beth, or dared her, to grow and learn to save herself. To pair her with him wouldn’t have allowed her to grow because Isaiah would have done anything for her.
What real love does is inspire you. It makes us brave, make us want to be better people. Or, rather, the best possible version of ourselves. It take us out of our comfort zone and challenges us every day. But it’s the type of challenge that makes us bold, brave and strong. It makes us feel taller than we’ve ever been and like we can take on anything, be anyone we want to be.
Love isn’t easy. Especially the really good kind. It’s difficult, and you’ll want to rip your hair out as many days as you’ll feel the wind at your back. But it’s worth it; it’s worth fighting for because it’s real. And nothing can make you feel the way real love can and will.
As Ryan tells Beth,
“I like you. I. Like. You. I’ll admit you’re annoying. Sometimes you agitate me to the brink of insanity, but you can throw it back at me like no one else. When you laugh, I want to laugh. When you smile, I want to smile. Hell, I want to be the one to make you smile.”
— Katie McGarry, Dare You To
In Dare You To, McGarrys shows us this is what real love is. Ryan’s love for Beth makes her strong. Not only to in finding the strength to do the right thing with her mum, but giving her the strength to break free of the destructive thoughts that cloud her head and heart, the strength to let herself love and be loved without the fear of getting hurt, the strength to live the life she’s not sure she’s capable of living. In doing so, she becomes the person she always secretly wanted to be.
Beth’s love for Ryan allows him to do what’s right regardless of what his parents say he should do, it inspires him to go for everything – playing ball and the writing competition. It shows him that he doesn’t need to be perfect, because she doesn’t want perfect, but at the same time he can still be perfect for her. It shows him that the best things are always harder, but are worth the fight.
He says it best himself:
“This overwhelming, encompassing feeling is love. It’s not perfect and it’s messy as hell. And it’s exactly what I need.”
— Katie McGarry, Dare You To