Take Me On by Katie McGarry (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: Pushing the Limits // Dare You To // Crash Into You
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: mixed martial arts, job loss, family injuries, fighting and kickboxing
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Netgalley. (Thank you!)
Summary: After swearing she’d never date a fighter again, Haley finds herself in a “relationship” with West, the new guy at school, as she teaches him to become a mix martial arts fighter. She must teach him how to fight or else she puts her cousin and brother’s lives at risk of ongoing, life-threatening fights with her ex-boyfriend.
Take Me On by Katie McGarry was full of all the elements I felt were strengths in Pushing the Limits — great witty banter between Haley and West, real life complications and issues, an interesting setting (a gym with a lot of emphasis on kickboxing and mixed martial arts), and fantastic burning chemistry.
But there were also some setbacks for me, too. It took quite a long time for me to feel like the story was progressing because the tension and constant back and forth dance between Haley and West’s emotions took quite a long time to level out. I desperately wanted them to make a decision. Could Haley accept that West was nothing like her ex-boyfriend and revoke her decision to never date another fighter? Could West settle down and stop feeling like the world was against him?
Haley’s ex brought out the absolute worst side of her and turned her kickboxing passion into something she wanted nothing to do with. Her deteriorating home life leaves Haley constantly feeling like a lesser version of herself. She walks on eggshells around her uncle who disrespects women (and people in general) in the most awful ways. She’s witnessing her father spiral out of control while desperately wanting him to get his act together and protect her. Even one of her closest friends, her grandfather, doesn’t know exactly what Haley’s gone through; she’s completely secluded herself and withdrawn.
West’s home life is the exact opposite of Haley’s by comparison — he has everything money can buy, lives in a sprawling mansion, and attends one of the best private schools. But when you look beyond all the shiny material things, you see that West’s mother is just as detached as Haley’s father, that his father’s expectations are unnecessarily high, and his sister is in the hospital for something he blames himself for.
Seeing these two broken individuals come together as they figure out how to heal and move past their struggles was probably my favorite part of Take Me On. I loved the symbolism behind the fighting that Haley was teaching West to do (and hoped that she would find worth in herself and start fighting for herself, too). Sometimes I felt like the story was dragging along more slowly than would have been ideal, making the whole book feel a little bit too lengthy. I can understand how in a real-world setting, people with West and Haley’s struggles wouldn’t immediately be able to bypass them and embrace the love being extended to them.
Haley and West’s story was an enjoyable experience that took me into another world and really made my day-to-day issues seem meager by comparison. Katie McGarry did a great job branching out to explore this new fighting dynamic and continues to impress with her ability to heal two broken characters.