A Review of “Going Too Far” by Jennifer Echols

Olivia Kalb, Staff Writer

“Going Too Far” is not your average romance or teen rebellion book.

Jennifer Echols has written a believable and relatable tale about two people, a 19-year-old cop and rebellious 18-year-old girl, falling in love while running from their painful pasts. But what really makes this book so memorable is that it’s focused on a railroad bridge.

Written in 2009, “Going Too Far” is Echol’s third young adult romance; the first two being “Major Crush” and “The Boys Next Door”, which are both romantic comedies. Echols also writes adult romantic comedies.

“Going Too Far” is about Meg, who has led a very troubled life since she was 13-years-old, and a cop named John, who is obsessed with the railroad bridge in town because of a past incident.

One night John finds Meg on the bridge with a few of her acquaintances and her boyfriend Eric. He sets out to teach them about the dangers of trespassing on the train tracks by forcing them to ride along with the firemen, paramedics, or him during their spring break.

And guess who John chooses for himself? You got it. Meg, who, as you can imagine, is oh-so-happy to be missing her spring break.

At the beginning of the book, Meg was just your average outcast. She purposely didn’t have friends, her dad wasn’t very nice, and she was extremely snarky. But as the book went on I got to see beneath that hard exterior and see the damaged, scared girl beneath the tough outer shell. Seeing who she truly was really helped me to empathize with her.

One thing I definitely feel sorry about is her dad, because in my opinion, he is a huge jerk. But I guess that he has a bit of a right to be one. I mean, she’s put him through a lot, with arrests, drugs, and alcohol, and she doesn’t seem the slightest bit repentant to him.

During their night rides, Meg and John connect through fun times at her parent’s restaurant “Eggstra, Eggstra,” arresting drug traffickers, pointing out all the places to “Park,” and through his final lesson where he shows her a horrific car accident.

Through these nights and events, Meg and John help each other finally let go of their pasts and start living life to the fullest (please excuse the corny cliché).

I really loved how Echols created their romance through the way they interacted. They are pushing and sparring with one another. The characters felt real to me; they would be confident one moment, then awkward and self-doubting the next.

Their relationship was not only funny, but it was also adorable and passionate. One of those passionate parts I loved was when John found Meg in a car with Eric, her non-boyfriend boyfriend, and his reaction, a mix of hurt and anger, had me swooning.

My favorite time reading about John, however, was when he met up with his friends at Mickey D’s. Most of the time, he’s pretty mature. But in this scene, he’s so adorably 19-years-old.

“Going Too Far” is a truly wonderful book. It’s witty and filled with real characters that I can actually relate to. Echols did one heck of a job on this book. Sigh, oh, how I want my own John — and Meg as my friend, of course.

 

As if I didn’t love Jennifer Echols enough, I was lucky enough to score an interview from her. Jennifer Echols is the author of romantic dramas for MTV and romantic comedies for Pulse. She currently lives in Birmingham. Visit her on the web at www.jennifer-echols.com

7 Fun Facts about You:  

I am running my first marathon this Sunday! I am very stressed out about this. I would like this to count as 5 facts, which works out to 1 fact every 5.24 miles.

I never played sports in high school because I was a band geek (and I’m still very proud to call myself that).

I was born in Atlanta, not Alabama, which proves that Wikipedia is sometimes wrong. I have been a lot more leery about Wikipedia since I discovered this error!

 

Now a little deeper…

I’ve never read a Young Adult Romance like “Going Too Far” before. Where did you get the inspiration for such an intense story? Did you get ideas for the book from real life situations you’ve been in or people you’ve met?

The girl who sat next to me in the oboe section in band was dating a very young cop when she was a junior in high school, and I guess that stuck with me. I made sure there are towns that employ 19-year-old policemen before I wrote that into the story. I’m always on the lookout for places where adulthood and childhood clash, because that puts a lot of stress on the characters an creates an interesting novel.

 

I noticed in your acknowledgements you said your editor, Jennifer Heddle, pushed you where you were scared to go in “Going Too Far,” I’m curious what you meant by that. Curious to know what the original manuscript looked like and what changes she encouraged you to make? Would your book have been so deeply emotional or would the characters have had such serious issues like their fears about death, through the bridge for John, and cancer for Meg, if it hadn’t been for your editor?

The main change I was talking about was that she told me to add the beginning of chapter 14, in which Meg tells John (and the reader) what actually happened when she was diagnosed with cancer. I always knew this happened, but I didn’t write it in the original manuscript because I thought readers would not empathize with Meg and would be turned off by how she acted. My editor and her assistant both felt otherwise. They really wanted to see this scene. After I wrote it, I knew they were right. I think it makes the book more powerful.

 

You write two distinctly different styles, both which I happen to love equally. Do you have to be in a particular mood to write either, or does your editor tell which mood you’re going to be in?  Do you prefer either style over the other?

There are three genres, actually. I write teen romantic drama (like “Going Too Far”) and teen romantic comedy (like my latest book, “The One That I Want”), and I have some adult romantic comedies coming out next year. What I’m writing has nothing to do with my mood and everything to do with what the editor has purchased. Here’s what happens: when you finish writing a book and turn it in, you write a proposal for a new book in the same genre. The proposal usually consists of the first three chapters plus a description of the whole book. If your editor buys it, you write it. If your editor doesn’t want it, you don’t write it, or you try to sell it to a new publisher. It is like constantly being threatened with getting laid off. This is why, when people tell me they want to be novelists, I make sure that they have also considered majoring in engineering.

 

Do you get attached to your characters or do you forget about them once the book is done? Because John and Meg stayed with me for a long time after reading the book!

I get so attached to them while I’m writing them that they’re with me all day, even when I’m not putting pen to paper. But after I’m done, I try very hard to move on to the next project. I never go back and read my finished books unless I absolutely have to.