Title: Back of Beyond
Author: Neeny Boucher
Genre: realistic YA, coming of age, contemporary, humor, and romance
Dina Martin and Nicholas Riley are total opposites. She’s the good girl with the perfect grades and he’s the bad boy with the reputation. Growing up together with close family ties, they have been at war for 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.
Do you remember that quirky couple from high school? The one people wondered why ‘they’ got together? Well, Neeny Boucher introduces us to one such couple, Dina and Riley, in “Back of Beyond”.Boucher’s novel, a first read for me, is a poignant tale of truth, love, and friendship. It’s a modern rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” crossed with S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”. There’s plenty of drama and even some laugh out loud moments.
“Back of Beyond” is well-written with complex characters. Dina and Riley are two teens who march to their own drumbeat. Their friends and siblings belong to a group known as The Outcast Crew. They are hated by two sets of rivals—the Anys (the It girls) and the jocks (the football team). Think of the Socs and the Greasers from “The Outsiders”. In Boucher’s tale, it’s money and social ranking, which drives their rivals.
Boucher handles some relevant teenage issues with finesse. Dina and Riley’s story includes problems with bullies, jealousy, betrayal, and lying. The kids live in a Podunk town somewhere in America with little opportunity according to them. For a long time, Dina was the source of everyone’s entertainment. Make fun of the misfit girl. Toss things at her. Humiliate her. Make her life worthless. One day, life turns and the girl who lived on the outside, sparks interest in the town’s bad boy. This blip on the radar starts a chain of events like an infamous house of cards, destined to fall.
No matter what their struggles may be (self-confidence, self-acceptance, self-empowerment) there’s an underlying theme: Be true to yourself and face your fears. When you stand up to adversity, good things can and will happen.
“Back of Beyond” was a refreshing love story about a couple who defied the norms. They managed to find each other despite the numerous obstacles in their way. I highly recommend reading this wonderful novel.
(5 Hands=Excellent; 4 Hands=Pretty Good; 3 Hands=Good)
Neeny Boucher is a nom de plume because my real name sounds like a 19th Century suffragette. Originally from New Zealand, I’m a long-time supporter of the All Blacks. Currently, I live in Europe and am 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 favorite 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, BA Honors, 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.
“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?”
Mirth is in Riley’s eyes. His 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.