The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Just To Break My Fall (Review: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols)

Going Too Far
Jennifer Echols
MTV Books 2009

I'm not always a fan of contemporary fiction – often I find it either too grim or too silly and so tend to avoid it in favour of less recognisable worlds. In fact, one of the last contemporary novels that I read was Jennifer Echols Forget You. While I enjoyed it to an extent, I wasn't entirely sure about the main character and had difficulty empathising with her situation. I am aware that that was just me – everyone else seems to have loved it and it was this rampant JE love that encouraged me to give her writing another go and pick up Going Too Far.

Going Too Far is told from the point of view of Meg, a bit of a wild child who finds herself being drunken and inappropriate with a drunken and inappropriate boy on a darkened rail bridge, in front of an oncoming train. Luckily, an Officer Of The Law is passing (well, prowling) and arrests them before they can get squished. This isn't the first time that Meg has been in trouble – she seems to have been raising hell for quite some time – but it is the first time she has come across this particular protector of the peace. Expecting to get off with just a wrist-slapping she instead finds herself having to abandon her spring break for a week's ride along with Officer After. At first she's unimpressed. OK, not just at first – she remains unimpressed for quite a while. Then she realises that Officer After and herself are closer in age than you would expect and that he just might have an interesting story to tell.

Meg is utterly refreshing as a narrator who really just couldn't give a crap what anyone thinks of her. She says exactly what she thinks exactly when she thinks it and whirls through life, friends and her parent's diner like a determined and angry tornado. Meg lives life to it's utmost and then some, always looking for the next high, next boy or next crazy experience – anything that will make her feel absolutely and truly alive. This is interesting enough, but what makes her fascinating is that she isn't exactly on the wrong track – in fact, Meg has a bright future ahead of her (good grades, a college scholarship) if she can only keep herself alive long enough to get there. Her slow appreciation of Officer After is interesting to read. She genuinely resents him and doesn't really understand, for the majority of the book, why he is so hell bent on keeping her out of trouble. I'd like to find more Megs to read about – she's really pretty fabulous.

Not, however, as fabulous as John After. Ah, Johnafter – surely he is the perfect creation as far as YA love interests go? He's hot, of course, in a I-Go-To-The-Gym-Favour-A-Military-Buzzcut-Yet-Have-Oddly-Cool-TShirts kind of way. Mainly, though, he deliciously complex. He's a cop and an artist, a grown-up who's not nearly as grown up as he purports to be, a rule-follower who bends the rules to almost breaking point and a runner who can't quite give up his nightly smoke. He's believably flawed, believably focused and also believably nineteen. I may love him. It's true. The relationship between him and Meg perhaps tests believability but this is referred to enough that it isn't an issue – and who cares, anyway? Not me, I was desperate to see what would happen between them and it really could have gone either way – in fact, at the end you suspect that it could still veer onto a different course. This, though, is one of the charms of Jennifer Echols's writing.

And her writing is excellent. Firstly, this book is hilarious. I read it while on a plane and, quite frankly, embarrassed myself by snorting wine out of my nose due to intense snickering. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard while reading. I particularly like Meg's use of the phrase “sullen malarkey” - I plan on integrating this into my general vocabulary along with “I am full of fear”. Also, use of flagrant capitalisation will always go down well with this reader.

At times Going Too Far is extremely moving with the histories of both characters making poignant reading. Echols managed to make me genuinely feel for both Meg and John – something I wasn't expecting. She cleverly brings them to life using a cast of characters who drift in and out of the story adding weight and background to each of the leads. Going Too Far manages to be not only an incredibly entertaining read but also a beautiful story about redemption, absolution and love and I can't recommend it enough.

Certainly I will be purchasing all other titles by Jennifer Echols but I also find that this has turned me towards other contemporary fiction – it's all I want to read right now and already I'm discovering some gems. Any recommendations would be more than welcome – but you can find me a contemporary title that I enjoy more than Going Too Far then I will be extremely surprised.


Lauren said…
This sounds like one of those books I'd pick up expecting to quite enjoy and then end up adoring. The characterisation sounds fabulous, and I'm in a character-driven kind of mood right now so this is sounding good. I love how you've described John After, he sounds so well drawn.

You totally have to read The Boys Of Summer. It's lighter than this one sounds, but it's like the perfect light summery romance.
Anonymous said…
So glad you enjoyed Going Too Far. I got it from the library and loved it so much that I purchased it. This is my favorite review of the book I've read so far! (And I've read a *lot* of reviews) =)
Oh I really, really loved this one. I'm so glad you did too. John After definitely takes the top spot for hot YA boys for me.
Vicki said…
I liked Forget You, but now I REALLY want to read this one thanks to such an awesome review! I'm loving John After already :)
I simply adored your review. Like you, I also don't find myself reading contemporary YA fiction very often, but you've sold me with this review. Meg sounds like a refreshingly real, brash, strong and unapologetic heroine, while John seems to be the perfect balance for that wild side. I've just added tihs to my TBR on goodreads - thanks to your amazing review.
Claire (Cem) said…
I found Going Too Far by chance searching for contemp YA's on a couple years back, not too long after it released. I was drawn in by the cover, it sounded interesting and it had a good overall rating. But still I didn't expect much, because at that point, I didn't expect much from any YA contemps, I just wanted a paranormal break. I was blown away by GTF!! I couldn't put it down, it had me laughing and crying and is one of my all time favourite books. I love your review and completely agree!! Meg is a breath of fresh air, John is...really freaking hot as well as complex, and I reread the book when I need that combination of beautiful and complex.

Oh, and while I did end up really enjoying Forget You, I had some issues with her attitude as well. But I'm in love with all of Jennifer's other books and can't wait for her next one!
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