Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Pocket Books, 2009, 245 pages
After a traumatic beginning to her adolescent years, Meg takes on a new style. Now, it’s getting her into trouble with the law and she’s taking her friends down with her. When the cops find Meg, her boyfriend Eric, Meg’s friend Tiffany, and Tiffany’s date Brian on a dangerous bridge, they arrest the four teens. Meg, Tiffany, and Brain are assigned to ride around with one of three options for their spring break: police, fire department, or ambulance. But they don’t get to choose — the law does. Meg is paired up with Officer After, who is attractive but has problems of his own. Meanwhile, Meg struggles with her relationships with Tiffany, Eric, and her parents.
I went into Going Too Far expecting the title to be a reflection of Meg pushing the limits with Officer John After in terms of the appropriateness of their relationship. Although this was a shade of a theme in the book, this was not what the title was referring to. Instead, it is more about how the pair pushes each other to hazardous points in the name of fixing each other. Like many other YA novelists, Echols deals with growth and maturity in Meg’s journey. However, in one of Meg’s final acts of “maturity” she completely abandons herself, leaving the readers with a sense of betrayal. This change is a clichéd one, too, joining many other clichés in the novel such as the “tortured artist” trope and “got to get out of this small town” theme.
Echols’ writing is similarly repetitive. There is never a moment when the reader even has the chance to forget that John has “dark eyes” or Meg has “blue hair.” Though not unreadable, the rest of the prose is unremarkable. It’s clear at best, but dull and unimaginative.
With some clichéd characters, other characters show more promise, like Purcell. Unfortunately, Echols never fully delivers on Purcell or Meg’s parents, who are another pair of intriguing but underdeveloped characters. The remainder of the cast is full of stereotypes — the virgin valedictorian, the softy best guy, and the fatherly law enforcement officer. Echols does make an interesting move with Eric, who is irredeemably misbehaved but constantly bailed out by his rich parents one way or another. However, he’s incredibly unlikable.
I will also take a moment to note that there’s a good deal of slut-shaming in this novel. I had hoped Meg would turn out to be a character who shows her readers that it is acceptable for women to be sexual beings, but she and others regularly make comments that suggest her opinion (and the author’s) is otherwise. I will also emphasize that authors are not their characters — however, in this instance, I found no trace of anti-slut-shaming philosophies from the author in the novel.
❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤