Back of Beyond by Neeny Boucher
Complicated Love #1
Back of Beyond is book #1 in the Complicated Love Series. I was gifted an ARC of this book to read for Gemma Reads Too Much.
Someone asked in one or my book groups ‘do you always leave honest reviews’ I replied with an emphatic YES I am brutally honest and I pride myself on my unfiltered reviews. Please bare that in mind when you read my review lol.
I want to start by saying that I adored the other two books in this series, the writing style, angry love and hilarious childlike banter was fantastic.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I say this book didn’t work for me.
I hate that I’m having to write this review because I honestly assumed I would love this book.
Unfortunately for me there were quite a few issues that I just couldn’t get on board with.
The narrative jumps from first to third person yet is in theory always told from either Dina or Riley’s POV. I found this just odd and it emphasised that at times the dialogue was stilted and completely lacking in the easy, angry banter.
This prequel made me really dislike Riley, don’t get me wrong he’s a smug dick in the other books but in this one he’s just a bit mean. This whole book he feels like a kid playing at being an adult and far too often I wanted to smack him round the head. I feel like I’ve been robbed of a much loved character and although I understand wanting to explore his character before him and Dina get together for me this worked in the opposite affect I’m not sure had I read this book first I would have been rooting for them to get back together in the rest of the series.
I missed the funny, witty banter that I’ve come to expect from this author and instead at times this book felt so bizarre it was almost a dodgy musical.
I also have a really big problem with the way Riley pressured his 15 yr. old girlfriend into having sex!!! He may have made a couple of platitudes about moving at her pace but then he manipulated her into having sex a month into her first ever relationship and that’s not cool!!
This story portrays about 50% of the characters as bullies and generally horrible people and even Bonnie, Mandy and Dina’s friendship couldn’t rescue the sad direction this book took.
I’m not sure what this prequel adds to Dina and Riley’s story; don’t get me wrong there were moments that were very sweet. But for me they were few and far between and they weren’t special enough to override the anger I felt on Dina’s behalf in falling in love with a douchebag when she’s really not old enough to know any better.
I’m incredibly sorry to say that this book gets a disappointing 2 stars from me.
“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.