Friday, April 22, 2016

New Review! Back of Beyond by Neeny Boucher, 5 Cranky Stars


Dina Martin and Nicholas Riley are total opposites. She's the good girl with the perfect grades and he's the bad boy with a reputation. Growing up together with close family ties, they have been at war as long as they can remember. When the unthinkable happens, neither of them wants it. Set in a small town at the turn of the millennium, this story is about family and friendship, the love of music and how sometimes who you don't want, is exactly who you need.

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Neeny Boucher's "Back of Beyond" gives readers a glimpse into the lives of a quirky, far from normal, high school couple. This engaging story of truth, love, and friendship, is a mash-up of "Romeo and Juliet" and S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders". It will make you think and laugh out loud.

"Back of Beyond" is well-written with complex characters. I loved Dina and Riley, two teens who marched to their own beat. They belonged to a group of friends known as The Outcast Crew, essentially a group of misfits. Of course, every group of misfits have their own group of kids who like to make their lives miserable. In "Back of Beyond" there are two groups, the Anys (the It girls who happen to be cheerleaders) and the jocks (the football team). It's like the Socs and the Greasers from Hinton's book, but this time it's money and social ranking driving the rivals. 

Boucher's book covers some relevant teenage issues--bullying, jealousy, betrayal, and lying. Although it's hard to pinpoint where this story takes place, it doesn't matter. These issues are global. Every teen has either dealt with them or witnessed someone else struggling with them. I loved how Boucher didn't tread lightly with these subjects. They are serious. One of the main perpetrators, Riley, changes his perspective when he listens to his heart. But listening to his heart begins a chain of events which tumble like a set of dominoes. 

The teens in "Back of Beyond" deal with lack of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and even self-empowerment. Boucher wove in an underlying message: Be true to yourself and face your fears. When you stand up to adversity, good things can and will happen. I loved this refreshing love story. We seldom get the stories about couples who defy the norms, the less than perfect couples. I highly recommend this book!



“Prissy. What are you doing here?” Dina Martin’s heart sinks. Nicholas Riley’s unnerving green cat eyes measure her and find her wanting. Pretentiously called by his last name, Riley lounges on the door of her family garage with one leg up behind him. Dressed for the river with a towel wrapped around his neck, his long dark hair is tied up on his head. Avoidance competes with irritation. “I live here,” Dina sighs. “What are you doing here?” Peeling his lanky frame off the garage, Riley stands in front of her. “Waiting for Johnny, your cool brother. You didn’t think we were here for you?” His words leech confidence, but Dina’s mind focuses on the plural. Cars are parked on the side of the road, filled with the beautiful people from high school. She shrinks. Lighting a cigarette, Riley blows smoke at her through his pouty, sullen lips. “Um, health,” Dina snaps. She waves a hand, but the smoke keeps billowing. “You look like a blowfish.” Riley laughs, a real one. Her internal alarm rings. Narrowing his eyes, he jabs a finger. “There’s something different about you.” Dina does a quick tally. She’s gotten taller and is nearly fifteen. Her opinion of Riley is low, but he isn’t stupid, and his powers of observation are acute, albeit cruel. “Really?” “Yeah,” Riley grins. He points at her chest. “It looks like your boobies finally came in.” Heat bursts on Dina’s face and her palms go sweaty. Puberty was monstrous. One moment she was as flat as a board and the next, “C” cups sprouted like giant fungi. She cried and tried binding them in the hope they’d go away, but Mom made her stop. Dina’s mind shies away from the next scarring encounter. The one where she was marched shame faced and head down to be poked and prodded by old ladies. When she returned home with bras, no one was allowed to mention it. Defensively folding her arms across her chest draws a derisive snort from Riley. Tears start at the corners of Dina’s eyes, but she blinks them away. “Snitched on anyone lately?” Riley’s mouth quirks up at the corners. “Are you still pissed about this summer? I saved your life.” He winks, tapping her on the arm. “You can thank me later.” Dina’s hand tingles as Riley bats his eyes at her. “Pissed? I’m not sure that fully encompasses the depth of my annoyance and your hypocrisy.” “Oh,” Riley mocks. “You’re a little grudge holder, aren’t you? Was it the grounding?” Very bad words are on the tip of Dina’s tongue, but she swallows the obscenities. Her father is strict on matters of propriety and she is in enough trouble as it is. “Ironic, isn’t it? You, the juvenile delinquent. The worst behaved person I know, snitched on us. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for juvie right now? Does it have semesters, or does it go all year round?” Riley’s eyes narrow. He bites his bottom lip. “I didn’t get you grounded for the other stuff. Who are you going to blame for that?” Dina’s head rocks up and their eyes lock. Her heart beats a steady drum against her ribcage. The urge to somehow hurt him dances in her mind. “Back off my sister, Riley,” Johnny warns, hitting Riley on the arm. Lithe, unruly, black hair with a Celtic cross tattoo that got him grounded, her big brother is one of her favorite people in the world. He’s also Riley’s best friend. “And, you.” Johnny grins, wagging a finger at Dina. “Stop picking fights.” He charges down the driveway, but Riley loiters, walking backward. His cat eyes glitter and he drops his index fingers. “See ya. Wouldn’t want to be ya.” Dina glares. His words hurt. She doesn’t want to be her either.

Author Bio

Neeny Boucher is a nom de plume because my real name sounds like a 19th Century suffragette. Originally, I'm from New Zealand and am a long-time supporter of the All Blacks. Currently, I am living in Europe and a trailing spouse, following my husband all over the world for his work. This not only gives me the opportunity to write, but also, experience the world and indulge in one of my favourite past-times: people watching. 
My own employment history is varied and ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. All of those experiences and encounters, however, have allowed me to collect amazing stories, which now form the basis of my writings.
I have always loved the weird, the outcast and those on the margins of society because they see the world in a different way. These are the people my characters are based around. 
I have a BA Hons (English and Pacific Studies) and a PhD in Sociology/Indigenous Studies.

The Complicated Love Series, books one to three: Back of Beyond, Lost in Flight, and Ties That Bind.

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