My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Harris Derwent is what my grandmother might have called “rough trade”. He’s had a hard life, but he is not hard. He pretends to be harder than he is – and that is why I fell in bookish love with him as I read this novel.
Ellie Marney has taken one of the most interesting characters from her “Every” series and given him the spotlight in No Limits. Harris is back in Ouyen following the climactic events in Every Move. He is hospital recovering from a gun shot wound when he meets Amie, a Certified Nursing Assistant he knew fleetingly in school. Amie and the rest of the nursing staff spend a lot of their time trying to stop Harris’s Dad, Dennis, from trying to get him out of bed and drag him home. Dennis is hands down one of the ugliest and base characters I have ever read. Abusive and drunk most of the time, Harris just wants to be free of him. When Dennis reveals he not only has cancer, but has racked up some huge debts, Harris knows he will be trapped until those debts are paid. Alongside all the fallout from being shot, Harris also has to work out how to get some cash. He is approached by some mates to be part of an ice distribution racket being run out of Mildura.
At first, he wants to say no, but after speaking to Amie’s dad Derrin Blunt, the local police sergeant, Harris is convinced to go undercover as an informant. This decision, and the decision by Blunt to use his daughter as the contact cover (for follow up hospital appointments to exchange information) are where the book really takes off.
Marney’s depiction of Mildura’s drug subculture feels disturbingly accurate. There are no punches pulled here. The language spoken and the scenes described are not for anyone who thinks YA writing should be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s not all dark, but the light shines through the cracks in the deep shadows of the methamphetamine-soaked recesses of the world Harris immerses himself in.
Along the way, Amie finds herself drawn to Harris: first as a concerned health worker, and later as a romantic interest. Harris, for his part, resists because he thinks Amie can do better, that he is bad news. Little by little we see the intimacy develop between them, and it is Marney’s precise writing skill that makes it feel authentic. No-one writes a first kiss like Ellie Marney. When Watts and Mycroft got together in the Every books, it sizzled, and in No Limits Marney doesn’t disappoint. Make no mistake, there is full-on teenage lust going on here, but also remarkable tenderness and emotion too. And when things start to go wrong and the drug boss looks for revenge, we really care about what happens to Harris and Amie.
I devoured this book very quickly. It is a fantastic, page-turning crime story; an insight into a subculture I have no personal knowledge of; a look inside an Indian/Australian family; and a breathless romance too. I hope we see more of Harris and Amie. Maybe “Outer Limits” for book 2?
For ages 14 and up (mainly because of language use, esp for school libraries).