Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. “Dance with me, Beth.”

“No.” I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again….

“I dare you…”

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

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I am profoundly honored to participate in the Harlequin Teen/Kismet BT Blog Tour for DARE YOU TO by Katie McGarry. This book is one that you simply must acquire, and thanks to Harelquin Teen and Kismet BT, you can! Keep reading below for my five-star review of DARE YOU TO and for not one, but two, epic giveaways!

Upon reading PUSHING THE LIMITS last year, I declared myself a “Katie McGarry Fangirl” for life. I knew the wait for DARE YOU TO would be tortorous, but I am happy to say that it was completely worth it! I was so intrigued by Beth’s rough-and-tumble character in PUSHING THE LIMITS, so when I learned that DARE YOU TO would be written from her point-of-view, I knew it just had to be good. Beth is cynical and sarcastic with a potty-mouth, determined to get a rise out of others while keeping her heart on lock-down. Ryan is mischevious, flirtatious, and a bit cocky; never one to turn down a dare, even if it means risking public humiliation by asking out the one girl who doesn’t swoon in his presence.

I really, really enjoyed the characters in DARE YOU TO. It’s hard to choose a favorite between Beth and Ryan, but I must admit that my heartstrings were a bit more attached to Ryan. He’s a talented baseball player with a very promising future in the pro league ahead of him and the full weight of his successful, hard-nosed father behind him. It’s clear to anyone with eyes that Beth has issues and that she’s been through a lot. With Ryan, however, everything appears fine on the outside, but no one knows that his parents hardly speak to each other, or why his older brother suddenly disappeared, or that he writes incredible stories when he’s alone in his room, showing immense talent beyond baseball.

As their individual stories unfolded, I caught myself so involved in the lives of both Beth and Ryan. There were points where my heart literally ached for Beth as she struggled to take care of her deadbeat mother and deal with the guilt heaped on her for being a failure and a disappointment. When things did go right, she quickly shut down or purposefully screwed things up in a subconscious effort to punish herself for being happy. It made me furious and incredibly sad that Beth felt such a great deal of responsibility for her mother, and that her mother put her in that position in the first place. This book made me really question just how much parents owe their children- and just how much children owe their parents. The tension that built with each encounter between Beth and her mom was enough to make me turn the pages with increasing fervor. I just knew something horrible would happen and I had to know that Beth would make it out okay… That’s when I realized that “okay” is relative, and we can be broken in so many ways.

Though I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised by how well-written Ryan’s character was. As a woman, it’s often hard to write from a male’s point-of-view, but Katie McGarry drew Ryan with an expert hand. She managed to capture both the hard and vulnerable sides of Ryan and made me want to care for him and about him. The old adage, “Looks can be deceiving,” came to mind when reading into Ryan’s home life. His parents are so angry, mostly at themselves, though they don’t realize it. His father is attempting to live vicariously through Ryan, inserting himself into every little detail of Ryan’s fledgling baseball career and pushing him to do what he thinks is best. Meanwhile, Ryan’s older brother, Mark, is a mere shadow for most of the book, and when I discovered why, I became even more invested in the Stone family. (A big part of me hopes that Katie McGarry will write a novella from Mark’s point-of-view!)

The romance that developed between Beth and Ryan can only be described as a slow (but incredibly satisfying) burn. Beth is terrified of feeling and, well, Ryan makes her feel. What started out as a ridculous, egotistical dare led to something so passionate and raw that my throat ached with unshed tears. The more Beth pushed away, the more invested Ryan became in conquering her fears and leaping over her walls. As they begin to trust each other (in between wanting to strangle each other), they both start accepting their pasts and their secrets for what they were and are. When this happens, the growth they experience is incredibly inspiring and touching. Beth starts facing her insecurities head-on and Ryan refuses to settle for his father’s dreams when his are so much grander. Faced with each other, neither Beth nor Ryan ever had a chance. If you’re looking for a romance that will make you swoon, theirs is it!

While it is a completely different story, I was excited to see some familiar faces from PUSHING THE LIMITS, including Echo and Noah. With the inclusion of Isaiah, Katie once again made me so curious about the background of a secondary character, and I am excited to read his story next. This bad boy has a story to be told, and I’m willing to bet my blog that it’s a heart-breaking one. Alongside these characters, we also get to know Scott, Beth’s big-shot uncle who used to pitch for the Yankees, and who has now put down roots in his old hometown for the express purpose of taking Beth away from her wretched home life. Oh, if only every broken child had a Scott in their life! His interactions with Beth were often gut-wrenching, sometimes funny, and always poignant. Scott made a few mistakes with Beth when she was younger, which he isn’t too proud to admit, and the effort he puts into making things right is admirable.

I’ve gone on and on about the characters, which are most important to me, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how well-paced the plot was and how immersed I became in the story. I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I was supposed to be working. (Confession: I briefly considered trying to read while driving. Please do not do this!) While DARE YOU TO does not necessarily have the “shock value” that PUSHING THE LIMITS had with regard to the issues that Echo dealt with, it is still an emotionally-involving story that will consume your every thought until you reach the end – and then long after you’ve turned the last page. If you’re looking for a happily-ever-after, you won’t necessarily find that in Katie’s books, but what you willfind are a cast of characters that learn how to make the best out of very tough situations and carve out their own slices of happiness… And in my opinion, that’s even better.

Just as with PUSHING THE LIMITS in 2013, DARE YOU TO is an easy favorite for 2013. Riveting, emotional, swoon-worthy, and all-around amazing. CRASH INTO YOU can’t be published soon enough!

*An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.