Review by Jessica Dall
Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far landed on my reading list quite by accident, but it was indeed a happy one. Though perhaps a little further into the “Young Adult” category than most books I have read recently, it would be hard to call it anything but enjoyable.
In a classic “bad girl meets good boy” story, Meg, a rebellious teenager in a small town, finds herself in trouble with the police when she goes with what can best be described as a hook up buddy to a spot where a group of teens were struck and killed by a train a few years previous to the story. Trespassing to get to the exact point of the bridge where the deaths occurred, the local police arrive and arrest them. Despite believing she’ll get off with a slap on the wrist, Meg is forced to cancel her Spring Break plans of getting out of town to “serve time” riding along with an officer on the night shift every night of her week off. Partnered with Officer John After, a young man with his own troubled past, the two start to grow—each unwillingly helping each other move past their own problems.
While not an unusual storyline—characters “coming of age” and opposites attracting—what truly makes this book is the characters. While neither Meg nor John immediately come off as likable, they both are undeniably real, and it is this sense of reality that allows them to grow. As both characters begin to move past their own problems, the reader is there with them, understanding them, seeing them develop, and that allows both Meg and John to become more likable in a way that feels entirely organic. If the plot can be boiled down to a cliché, the characters don’t fall into any of the pitfalls of the classic stereotypes that go along with that.
With such strong personalities at the heart of the story, the dialogue is likewise snappy and true to each unique character. While some of the secondary characters don’t seem as fully developed as the leads, Meg and John, the story moves quickly enough—and focuses so much on the leads—the fact is not overly damaging to the novel. Truly, Echols has seemed to focus on the main characters’ lives and personalities over much of anything else one might look for in a novel—a risk that ultimately pays off in a wonderfully character-driven novel.
All that said, by no account is Going Too Far great literature. If you are looking for something heart wrenching, deep or something that will leave you thinking for hours after, it more than likely isn’t a book you’ll be happy with. If you are looking for a quick read with some enjoyable characters and a cute—if predictable—plot, however, Going Too Far is a fun way to spend a day.
Going Too Far (2009) is available in ebook and paperback form through MTV Books.
Note: While a Young Adult novel, Going Too Far does touch on many sensitive topics which may be best suited to High School level readers and up.