What it’s about: (from Goodreads) The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.
Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.
But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I have always liked Isaiah since I first met him in Pushing the Limits. As much as I loved Dare You To, enjoyed Beth’s romance with Ryan and thought that the author was right; Beth and Isaiah should not be together, I was still a bit sad for Isaiah. I felt he got a bit of a raw deal. So, I was excited to read his story – where he finally gets his happy.
As expected, it was hard won and I had some nervous moments wondering how the author was going to achieve it (but she totally did) and in the process I met a wonderful heroine in Rachel, her yummy brothers (who I hope to see again in future books – especially West please) as well as more of Logan (may we have his book also? pretty please?) and had the opportunity to check in with Beth and Ryan and Noah and Echo. I felt all of the characters had an organic place in the book and as much as I was happy to see previous characters again, I’m also happy they were present because they had things to do relevant to the story being told.
It does seem that Echo and Noah are struggling a bit – not with each other, they’re still solid, but with finances for Noah and her mother on Echo’s part so I wonder (dare I hope?) whether there might be a novella or another Noah/Echo story in the future?
There is a lot going on in Crash Into You. Isaiah was abandoned by his mother when he was six and he has been in the foster system ever since. A few months shy of eighteen, he still has to see a case worker who is keen to reunite him with his mother who has recently expressed interest in a relationship. In the meantime, Isaiah and Noah are sharing a shitty apartment but are struggling to afford the rent and pay the bills and also, you know, eat. Isaiah has a dream of working as a mechanic in an auto shop which specialises in high end and very fast cars. He has to graduate, pass a test and gain an internship and these are all things with which he struggles in the course of the book not because he isn’t smart or a hard-worker but because the system keeps crapping on him.
In an effort to gain some cash to cover the bills, Isaiah heads to a local criminal who arranges (illegal) street drag races and heavy side bets on them and offers himself as a driver in a one time deal. Isaiah is reluctant because he doesn’t want to be hooked by Eric – he has plans and they involve staying out of prison and not being beholden to anyone, especially not a criminal like Eric – but he is desperate for money for survival. At the street race, Isaiah meets seventeen year old Rachel, who has stumbled into his sphere after meeting some college boys at a gas station, who led her to the race. Rachel loves cars and speed (not the drug; going fast). She is stifled in so many areas of her life, driving her car fast is one of the very few ways she can feel free.
Because: reasons, by the end of the night Isaiah (who was deeply smitten by Rachel on sight) and Rachel are in trouble with Eric and pretty soon he is demanding they “repay” him $5,000 within six weeks or else he will “own” Isaiah (and he will never get out) and he will hurt (aka rape) Rachel as well as take her precious Mustang. There was a little something I missed in this set up in exactly how it was Rachel’s fault that Eric lost the money but I was prepared to go with it. Isaiah, feeling he owes Rachel a debt because when they were running from the police she helped him, and also because she’s beautiful and actually looks at him, swears he will get the money somehow and he and Rachel make a plan to do legal drag racing at a local speedway, with him driving her car and a friend (Logan) driving his.
So, there’s all of Isaiah’s stuff, the spectre of evil Eric hanging over their heads and then there’s all of Rachel’s problems. And man, she has them. Rachel’s family is so super dysfunctional it’s not funny. A sister, Colleen, died of leukemia when she was 13 and after that, Rachel’s mother fell apart. Her parents had more children and the light finally returned to mum’s eyes when Rachel, another girl, a “replacement” was born. Rachel has always felt (with significant justification) that she could not be herself, that it was her responsibility to make her mother happy by being as much like Colleen as possible. As a result, she has a severe anxiety disorder. She is naturally shy and introverted, with a fear of public speaking. To make her mother happy however, Rachel is “forced” to participate in charity events and speak – which causes panic attacks which have very serious health consequences.
Isaiah is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and Rachel is the rich girl from the nice side of town and it seems their relationship is doomed from the start. Even if they can repay Eric, how on earth will Rachel’s family ever accept Isaiah?
So there’s all that and in the meantime, Isaiah and Rachel are falling in love. Rachel has never had a boyfriend, has never been kissed. With Isaiah she finds she can be herself – a girl she didn’t really even know. In Isaiah she finds acceptance and trust and protection unlike any other – her brothers, while protective of her, enable the dysfunction with her mother and in fact, actively encourage it. Isaiah is the only one completely on Rachel’s side. And on his part, for Isaiah, Rachel is a miracle, an angel sent from heaven who accepts him and loves him for who he is. Isaiah doesn’t just put her on a pedestal and worship her though. He learns, through the course of the book, that Rachel is her own person and some things she needs to do for herself with him by her side rather than doing it for her. And as much as Rachel is shy and anxiety-ridden, her naivety does not mean she’s a pushover. To my delight, she asks him questions and they actually talk about stuff and don’t leave things hanging. She will ask him “why didn’t you call?” or “do you use drugs?” and he answers her, truthfully, and it is very easy to see why they fall in love and how. I was initially a bit worried that I wasn’t seeing enough of them communicating but they made time and they did and that, more than anything, made me believe in their relationship and their happy ending.
We also meet a new character – Abby and I’d like to read her story like you wouldn’t believe. There is a lot I could say about Abby and Rachel and the friendship that develops between them but this review is already too long. I will say that I loved – LOVED that Abby and Rachel were friends because they DECIDED TO BE.
What else? I felt Crash Into You was a kind of riff/homage to Grease with the cars and the big drag race near the end and the good girl and the bad boy. It’s very different too of course and much more modern and also darker, but there was also something joyous about youth and love as well.
My niggles with the book are very small. One is kind of spoilerish so I’ve put it under a tag – open at your own peril.
Rachel’s mother has a “miraculous” recovery in just three months. After the gritty realism of the rest of the story, I just found this too fairy tale-ish to really buy. But, not having Rachel freaking out because her mother is trying to make her a Colleen-clone is part of Rachel’s HEA so I accept something needed to change. But the extent of that change in such a short period was unbelievable to me.
I’ve mentioned that at the very start of their relationship it felt a bit like Isaiah and Rachel had feelings for each other merely because they did, but, once they started talking (which wasn’t too far into the book) I saw it all and it was beautiful. And, as mentioned above, there was something in the set up with Eric which didn’t quite make sense to me.
But Isaiah SO deserved his HEA, as did Rachel and I sweated with them wondering how on earth it could ever happen. There are multiple “black moments” in this book and there was a point where I was just feeling heartbroken for these kids and I knew it was going to get worse before it got better. I devoured the book in two evenings and was so invested in the happiness and the future of these characters. Katie McGarry’s writing just keeps getting better I believe and she started off pretty great because her debut, Pushing the Limits, was amazing. I love how Isaiah is a man of honour and I absolutely love how McGarry heroes are so NOT douchebags and things like consent is important and always specifically gained before anything happens.
There was something else I loved too. Isaiah didn’t want to “owe” anyone. He didn’t want to rely on anyone. He trusted few people and he didn’t like to leave himself open to being disappointed. But, by the end of the story he learns that you can’t do it all on your own and accepting help from the right people, at the right time and in the right ways is a good thing and it doesn’t make him weak. And Rachel kicks ass.
“When I’m with you, even my past seems like a bad dream,” he says. “I’ve sat on this hill a hundred times, and all I used to see were lights that represented places where I wasn’t wanted, where I never belonged. Now, when you aren’t with me, I look east and know that one of those lights represents you, and I don’t feel alone anymore.”
Honestly, I loved it. Go get it quick.
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