Going Too Far
When I was in middle and high school, I read plenty of YA books. In fact, I still do. One thing I appreciate now is that there seem to be more heroines out there who aren’t perfect – and who really are not trying to be. The unforgettable narrator of Going Too Far is one of these. Meg manages to come off as self-centered, whiny, and rebellious, but ultimately has much more to her than one would expect at first glance. However, while I ended up getting somewhat attached to her character, parts of her story either annoyed or disturbed me to the point that this became a very mixed reading experience.
Meg lives in a small town in Alabama and eagerly awaits the day she can flee. Her parents own a marginally successful diner and expect her to work there for little or no pay. Meg resents her parents, resents the dead-end town, and basically hates the world. In some ways, it reminds one of many teenagers in real life. However, Meg also runs with some rough people and, while she has gotten herself in trouble before, she will now have to face actual legal consequences for her actions.
As part of a dare, Meg and her friends wind up on top of a railroad bridge where local rumor has it teens died years before. The group is caught by police officer John After, who shows little aside from contempt for their rebellious attitudes. In spite of the rudeness shown by Meg to the officer, he arranges to have her learn her lesson by riding along with him during her Spring Break week. Most of her friends also find themselves parceled out to various first responders for similar assignments.
Meg had planned to spend Spring Break on a long-coveted trip to Miami for which she has saved. Instead, she finds herself pulling double shifts with John and at the diner. Things do not start auspiciously. Meg resents losing her break and definitely takes it out on John. However, the two start to develop an understanding that blooms into all-out attraction by the end of the book.
How you feel about this love story may very well rest upon where you live. After all, Meg is a seventeen-year-old high school student and John is a nineteen-year-old cop. The age difference isn’t that huge and by itself didn’t bother me too much. However, I looked up the laws, and in several states, this relationship would rate as varying degrees of sexual assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or even statutory rape.
While the age difference alone didn’t disturb me, the power imbalance between the characters did. The idea of Meg falling in love with the officer trying to scare her straight has a certain appeal (and John is a very good-hearted hero). Still, having an officer in a position of power getting involved in a relationship with a juvenile offender he should be mentoring has a certain creepiness to it. The fact that relationships are discussed in primarily sexual terms by the characters – especially Meg – adds to this. Emotion is there, but it often takes a backseat – adding to that “I heard something like this in Court the other day” feeling that I sometimes got while reading this story.
In the end, I really wanted to like this story. I mostly liked Meg’s voice, and I thought John came off as the quintessential nice guy. I also enjoyed the subplot involving Meg’s budding friendship with the more straitlaced Tiffany Hart. However, some of the bickering and petty sniping between the main characters in Going Too Far went on entirely too long – even after making allowances for the age of the characters. Adding the power imbalance between the two main characters to the equation made this book one that I unfortunately cannot recommend. However, this author has a good voice and there is potential here. I hope to see it realized.