Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009).
Meg has dyed-blue hair and a penchant for bad behavior. That's how she ends up drunk on a railroad bridge with the town rich-boy drug dealer in the middle of the night. And she's even gotten a pair of goody-two-shoes classmates to join in the fun. Luckily, the train misses them; unluckily, they're all arrested--by a driven young cop who constantly patrols the bridge to keep teens from getting killed. The rich boy's lawyer dad gets him out of trouble, but Meg and the others have to do community service over spring break, and Meg is royally peeved about that because she had planned to go the beach for the very first time! Instead, she has to spend her vacation on night shift with the very cop who arrested her plus work her usual day shift (for free, as usual, too) at her parents' greasy spoon diner.
Echols is clearly trying for an edgier, more realistic novel than her usual fluffy romances here, but for me it falls flat. First off, Meg's character relies on physical totems, like dyed hair (but not the brow piercing displayed on the cover), to signal interior traits. But we're also supposed to ignore that and believe that Meg is a good girl who has suffered mightily. In the end, this maybe turns out to be true, but it's not revealed to the very end, which makes for an uneasy reading ride. She's nasty to her parents and it seems that the only reason for that is because they're poor and she has to work for free. Instead, she ends up sounding spoiled and whiny. The second stumbling block, for me, was the character of John, the cop. We're supposed to believe that a nineteen-year-old boy who just graduated from high school is a hard-nosed cop. Even more unbelievably, Meg had had a class with him the previous year and didn't recognize him at all because apparently he grew a bunch of muscles and cut his hair. Like Meg, John has a hidden agenda for his actions, but it's not revealed until the very end.
Many readers will likely be able to ignore these issues, but I could not. The novel starts out fast and just continues. Meg is a curious character with some funny lines which help the story out a lot. The romance is a bit forced and obvious, but it does move the story along. It seems far-fetched (oops, a third problem!) that Meg would be allowed to ride along with such a young cop, but it creates interesting situations and opportunities for growth for this seemingly selfish girl. You'll have to be the judge of whether the revelation of the reason for her actions justifies them.
Sexual situations, intense situations, alcohol, drugs. OK for ages 14 & up.
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