[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

Walk the Edge (Thunder Road, #2) 
Title: Walk the Edge (Thunder Road #2)
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Source: eARC for review
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Smart. Responsible. That's seventeen-year-old Breanna's role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully's line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas "Razor" Turner into her life.

Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don't belong. But when he learns she's being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it's time to step outside the rules.

And so they make a pact: he'll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she'll help him seek answers to the mystery that's haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they're both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they're going from here
Wow. Wow wow wow. First thought after finishing Walk the Edge? I've forgotten just how good of a writer Katie McGarry is. Second thought? Nowhere but Here is a strong book and a great beginning of a series (and if you know me there's a good chance that I have raved about it to you), but Walk the Edge blows it completely out of the water. Yes, folks - it's THAT good. I myself was shocked at how quickly this book drew me in - it was such a quick read for me (mainly because I couldn't make myself stop no matter what), and I was able to finish it in one sitting. The words flowed, and it was so easy to lose myself in Breanna and Razor's story. Third thought? Heck, what did I expect? This IS Katie McGarry - author of Pushing the Limits - after all!

To sum it all up? This is a book that you need.

While reading Nowhere but Here, I always thought that we would get Chevy's story next, so color me surprised when I saw a sneak peek at Razor's story instead. Why is this, you may ask? Well, if you read Nowhere but Here, you would know that Razor has always been painted as young man who is very much troubled, and even a little bit unhinged. This was a character who has already experienced so much in life despite his young age, and he didn't seem like the heroes we always see in YA. I honestly didn't think that we would get the chance to explore his character; I thought McGarry would be content for him to remain in the background - an integral but small part of the series - but damn, I couldn't be more wrong. McGarry challenged herself and her writing in telling us a story about such a damaged character who is fifty shades of imperfect and who is beyond flawed... and kicked ass in doing so.

One of McGarry's strong suits has always been her unflinching portrayal of all sorts of filial relationships, and we get those in droves in Walk the Edge. Breanna, our female MC, is the middle child in a large family, and she has never felt at home with her parents and siblings. Her eldest sister treats her with thinly-veiled contempt, and she doesn't exactly have close relationships with the rest of her siblings either. Her parents already feel stretched thin with all that they have to do, and they're not exactly able to provide the emotional support that Breanna badly needs. It was difficult to read about Breanna's situation - you can't help but have a lump in you throat when you see how callously her siblings treat her, and how her parents seem to take her for granted. She can't count on their help and support, and all these was just so heartbreaking to read. What's even more sad about it all is that you know that Breanna's suggestion is not unique - this is a situation that a lot of people find or have found themselves in.

Meanwhile, our male MC, Razor, doesn't have the easiest of relationships with his father either. His mother passed away a few years ago, and the talk of the town is that she chose to take her own life because of how miserable she was. Razor's father seemingly starts a new relationship, and Razor doesn't stomach this is so easily either. Add in the fact that new evidence has recently come to light that Razor's mother may have been murdered by the rival motorcycle club, and shit basically hits the fan. Razor feels like his father is not honest enough with him, and as a result, their relationship suffers under the strain of the secrets of the past. Reading through Razor and his father's interactions was heartwrenching, to say the least. Here you have Razor who just wants his father to talk to him, and he can't even have that. McGarry did an amazing job in exploring the nooks and crannies of Breanna and Razor's relationships with their families, proving time and time again what a multi-faceted author she is.

I also loved how McGarry took her time in building and developing the romance between Breanna and Razor - before anything else, they are friends, and they don't lose that throughout the course of the book. When Breanna becomes the victim of blackmail and cyberbullying, it's Razor she leans on, and it's Razor she asks for help. Razor stands by Breanna when she most needs it, and he exerts his utmost effort in helping her. While yes, the attraction was there during their first meeting, the fact that everything came after was thoroughly explored and not rushed made you root for Breanna and Razor - at the end of the day you just want them to be happy! They sooo deserve to be happy!

All in all, I can't say it enough - I am blown away at how McGarry has outdone herself. I didn't think it would be possible for a book to even equal Pushing the Limits in my heart (I love Noah and Echo oh so much), but Walk the Edge has done just that. Not only has McGarry created two characters that will have captured your heart from the get go, she also tackled the concept of cyberbullying astoundingly and respectfully. I honestly can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Rating: 5 Stars

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The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

The Year We Fell Apart 
Title: The Year We Fell Apart
Author: Emily Martin
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.
I've always been of the opinion that contemporary - especially in YA - is the hardest sub-genre to write. Why, you may ask? When reading contemporary novels, we want our stories realistic, and yet at the same time, we don't want them too reminiscent of our real lives. We want our main characters familiar and relateable, and yet at the same time, we don't want them making mistake after mistake. We want them as close to perfect as possible. We're a hard to please bunch, aren't we? Recently though, I've found myself reading more of contemporaries that feature imperfect characters - characters who actually learn and find themselves throughout the story; and storylines that are messy, gritty, and captivating, and I'm happy to say that I found these components in The Year We Fell Apart.

If I were to choose a phrase to describe my reading experience of The Year We Fell Apart, I would choose 'it hurts SO good'. See, it's not an easy book to read. You'll find yourself frustrated with Harper and Declan, our main characters, too many times to count, and there are numerous interactions that would leave you with your gut clenched and you uneasily drawing shallow breaths. Again, it hurts so good because despite everything that I have just mentioned, you still can't stop reading! You just have to know how Harper and Declan's story ends. All these is the magic of The Year We Fell Apart - its realistic take of your classic teenage love story is what sets it apart from other books of its genre. Martin was careful with her writing - nothing felt forced, contrived, or overexaggerated. Rather, the gradual progression of our characters' stories all felt natural, and they made sense.

Let me say it point blank, Harper is not an easy character to like. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people decide that they don't like this book because of her. But you know what? She's flawed. She's imperfect. And that's OKAY. There were multiple instances wherein she made me want to gouge my eyes out. But here's the thing - at the end of the day, she's just like you and me. Let me reiterate - she is as imperfect as you and I are. Sure, Harper made a whole slew of mistakes throughout the book, and some of her decisions were difficult to fathom, but you know what? Not once did I ever doubt that she was doing the best that she can. She was surviving the only way she knew how, and there is just no way that I can fault Harper for that.

It didn't escape me that so many problems and issues could have been avoided had Harper and Declan simply sat down and talk, but hey, that's so much easier said than done. Harper isn't avoiding talking to Declan for no reason at all - she knew that she what she would say would hurt Declan immensely, and THAT'S what she's trying to avoid. I'm not saying I agree with the decisions that she made, but I understand why she chose to deal with the fallout of her actions the way she did. She was frantic, desperate, and afraid, and all these in turn lead to poor decisions. Harper may not be your cookie-cutter chosen one heroine, but that's okay. I was able to relate to her, and I understood her. That's enough for me.

Another strength of The Year We Fell Apart is how it depicted the positives and negatives of relationships, and how they grow and change in time. I felt excited, frustrated, anxious and hopeful (believe me when I say that you will be through one heck of an emotional roller coaster with this book!!!) while reading Harper and Declan's journey as they tried to pick up the pieces of their failed relationship, and how they tried their damned hardest to move forward. It was NOT an easy ride, but the grit and rawness of it all was what made the book so magical!

While I'm in the topic of relationships, let me also talk about Cory and Harper's friendship - this right here is what made me LOVE this book. I don't think I've ever been happier to read about a platonic friendship between a boy and a girl - there were no hidden agendas nor hidden feelings whatsoever, just a strong friendship that has successfully weathered both good and bad times. Cory's devotion to Harper, as well as in unwavering belief that Harper is so much more than she makes herself seem, were both so heartwarming to read.

All in all, if you're in the mood for a slightly angsty but wholly realistic contemporary read, The Year We Fell Apart is the book for you. And just because I have to say it again... this book hurts SO SO SO good and YOU HAVE TO READ IT.

(Well. So much for staying calm.)

Rating: 5 Stars