Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “…in this perfect moment, there is always fear.”
Emma Searfoss, a 22 year old engineer designer, has moved clear across the country to get away from her stepfather. Emotionally and physically abused by him since childhood, her victimization was made worse by her mother and two brothers allowing it to happen and not intervening. Blunt and in need of some anger management classes, Emma moves into a new apartment only to wake up the next day and find a strange man has made himself at home there.
David Calgaro is a 26 year old carpenter who, like Emma, grew up in abusive home. Contracted to replace the kitchen in her new apartment, his lack of boundaries infuriates then intrigues Emma. This outgoing and charming young man grounds her and soon their friendship blossoms into something more.
Emma feels safe with David, a first for her, and she falls hard for this mysterious man. But David has secrets. Dark secrets that involve his previous girlfriends. Emma knows David is hiding something from her but her attraction to him is strong and when he asks for the impossible…she must decide how far she is willing go for love.
How far would you go to prove your love to someone?
Would you lie for them?
Would you steal for them?
Would you kill for them?
Would you die for them?
Claire Wallis asks these questions and more in her debut NA novel, Push. A psychological romantic thriller that addresses the long term emotional and mental damage caused by childhood abuse and the lengths some will go to find peace and happiness. I use the term romance with hesitation because I don’t consider this a romance per say. It’s more of a love story steeped in tragedy and deception. Wallis uses an interesting set up in that the story opens at the end, essentially telling us what has happened. She then takes us back to the beginning to when Emma and David first met and begins to explain to us, in Emma’s voice, how she and David arrived at their point of no return.
Steady pacing peels back the layers of Emma and David, introducing us to two seemingly normal individuals whose similar backgrounds guide and attract them to one another. Humorous scenes, dry witty dialogue, and some very sexy sensual love scenes keeps the reader engaged as Wallis builds what looks to be a typical NA romance. As the book progresses, the tone changes. It’s a gradual feeling that you don’t realize is there until you feel the hair on the back of your neck raise. The very things that engaged you in the beginning take on a more sinister air. They mock you. Wallis digs deep into our protagonists’, giving us hints at the darkness that exists in both of them. Scenes from David and Emma’s childhoods only serve to further explain their idiosyncrasies while POVs from David’s ex girlfriends opens our eyes to something more insidious.
I have to say this book leaves you reeling once you reach the end. Emotions are jumbled as you try to figure out what you missed and when it all began to change. Did it actually change or was it this way all along but you just refused to see it? It makes you question your own judgement. Wallis does a fabulous job of twisting the plotlines; building upon a seemingly strong foundation, only to show at the end just how easily you can lie to others…and yourself.
“I know that we are going to be alright. I know because each of us consists of half lunacy and half absurdity-and neither of us is fit to be with anyone else.”
David and Emma are energetic protagonists. Wallis paints a vivid three dimensional picture of them; highlighting their flaws as well as their attributes in a manner that only makes them more appealing. Both come off strong, intelligent, and loyal. There is an interesting contrast shown here between Emma and David. Both are damaged but Emma seems to be better adjusted than David. She is able to express herself while David manipulates the truth and only comes clean when forced into a corner. Their relationship progresses fast; you can see an almost manic quality in the time they spend together. It’s as if they are clinging by the tips of their fingers, struggling to hold on. Their time together changes them. You begin to see them giving up some unhealthy habits and becoming more honest with each other.
“I admit that I am almost relieved to hear that his family is nearly as messed up as mine. I feel as if he’s less likely to judge me because of it, and that makes me happy”
Wallis doesn’t shy away from the sexual aspect as she allows Emma and David to enjoy a full and often consummated affair. Their chemistry is a palpable force felt throughout the book that only gains strength the longer they are together. I liked seeing that Emma isn’t slut shamed or forced to view her sexuality as a bad thing because of her past. This is usually a side effect in NAs when either protagonists has an abusive childhood. She initiates her and David’s first sexual encounter and it is enjoyed by both with no negative consequences.
“The phoenix is stretched out over my lap, rising and falling as he breathes.”
Though you think you know the ending…you don’t. Everything has changed and Wallis gives us just enough so we aren’t sure of anything anymore and leaves us in limbo; waiting for the next book. Though I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I do wish we could have gotten more of David’s POV in the present. As it was, I could only take most of what he said and did at face value since it was told to us by Emma. I am hoping that book two, title and release date to be announced, will be told in David’s voice and I can gain a better understanding of where his head was during all of this.
Push was a surprisingly fresh and unique treat to read. I recommend to all new adult aficionados who is looking for something new in this oft repetitive genre. I for one will be keeping a close eye on Claire Wallis in the future.