Going Too Far
Author: Jennifer Echols
Source: Local library
Meg McPherson is getting out of town. But before she does, she's going to have as much fun as illegally possible. Beer, pot, and bad boys all feature on her to-do list. Then a humorless cop arrests her for fooling around on the forbidden railroad bridge. In exchange for not doing jail time, Meg is assigned to a week of nighttime ride-alongs with the police to see all the places she might be headed if she doesn't clean up her act. And just which cop is she riding along with? None other than Officer John After, otherwise known as that cop with the stick up his butt. Yippee!
As the week goes by, however, Meg realizes that he's more than just Officer After. Only a year older than herself, fresh out of the police academy, John is also smart, funny, sweet, and artistic. In the nighttime hours, something more than animosity begins to grow between them, and now, for the first time in her life, Meg can kinda sorta see a future with somebody.
Except that where she doesn't want to do anything but go, John can't think of anything but staying.
I knew Jennifer Echols' name from her work on Simon Pulse's romantic comedy series, which are, well, almost too cute for me. Lots of cartoon covers and curly writing. Seeing her name on this rather hot cover (seriously, why does this make me want to fan myself?) made me blink a little. Then I read it, on the recommendation of several folks on my blogroll. Hooooooo.
Meg is, as they said of Lord Byron, mad, bad, and dangerous to know. John is Dudley Do-Right with about 1000% more brains. Oil and water, gunpowder and a match, call them whatever you like, these two are not exactly the perfect match at first glance. But that's the trouble with first glances, they barely tell you a tenth of the story. Both Meg and John have good reasons to be the way they are. After an early-teens bout with leukemia, Meg is simultaneously determined to live life to the fullest and never to tie herself down, because she might not be around to fulfill any promises. It takes a little longer to get John's backstory, but suffice it to non-spoilerly say, a past tragedy has focused his entire life on the railroad bridge where he arrested Meg. (I did wonder how, in this seemingly infinitesimal town, both Meg and John missed each others' stories so completely. Minor niggle, and such ignorance is necessary for the story to work.)
The book is most definitely for older teens. Besides the aforementioned beer and pot, sex features largely in this book. Meg is casual-verging-on-promiscuous about sex, and there's one scene where she and John are a couple of layers of cloth away from making love. They're also dealing with questions of impending adulthood. Meg is months away from escaping to college, and John has a very adult and very dangerous job. In fact, for a decent portion of the book, Meg thinks he's much older than he really is.
A lot of teen romances are cute (that word again!) tales in which the major obstacle is "He loves me, he loves me not." Which I have no issue with, but there's something infinitely meatier about a story like this, where the obstacles are all tangled up within the protagonists. Meg and John both have to battle the pain of the past and fear of the future to muster up the courage to love each other.
After this book, I might bite the bullet and go find some of those romantic comedies. A little cute won't kill me, and if Echols can put Meg and John together, then she can bring quite a bit of depth to what I had assumed would be shallow waters.