As featured in The Jamaica Observer Bookends - Sunday, May 31, 2015
By Sharon Leach

Jamaican Author Publishes Debut Novel

Mandisa Parnell's young adult romance, The Boy Next Door, was recently published, joining the growing cadre of Caribbean genre fiction for children/young adults.

Parnell is a graduate of the Ardenne High School and is a two-time awardee in the Jamaica (JCDC) Creative Writing Competition, having copped a Merit Award in 2013 and a Silver Award in 2014.

She recently appeared at the Talking Trees Literary Fiesta reading from her work.

Find out more about her on her blog at mandisamparnell.wordpress.com.

The following is an excerpt.

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EXCERPT

THE BOY NEXT DOOR

My head and my body are telling me that I like this guy. But I don’t want to like this guy. It’s obvious to me that he’s a jerk…although he seems like a lovable jerk. Somebody needs to put his name as the definition for the word “handsome” in the dictionary. Hmm. Seriously. He is perfect; such pretty eyes…green, green…I could just drown in them.

He’s so blinking mischievous and annoying though…but I think deep down a part of me likes that anyway. Maybe it’s because I like the attention. I mean, which girl in her right mind wouldn’t enjoy getting attention from a hot-bwoy like him? Lawd Jezas! He is sooo cute! My-my! To think that Danielle thinks me and him would make a great couple. Ummm. I don’t think so. Cute boys like him are always players. And, on top o’ that, is America him come from and dem wild like wha’! So that’s definitely not a road I wish to trod. Once bitten, twice shy.

Another thing is that him too full o’ himself. Yeah, I know some people would say he’s just self-confident or self-assured and yada-yada but me call it cocky! Plain and simple. He acts like he’s used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants and I detest people like that. He won’t be getting anywhere with me – not because him look good.

But to tell you the truth, mi heart skip about a million beats when he was near me. True-true! This is crazy. I’m usually cool and in control around boys like him but, he…I don’t know…he does something to me…not sure what, but whatever it is has me feeling as helpless as a newborn baby.

And, I definitely hate that.

 * * *

CHO! Blouse an’ skirt!

Noelle hissed her teeth in frustration and sent her Mathematics textbook flying through the air! It sailed across her bedroom, landed with a thud against the concrete wall and fell heavily onto the carpet-covered floor. She rose swiftly from her desk, snapping off the switch on the desk-lamp and causing the chair to fall over backwards. Disregarding both chair and book, she flounced over to the window and threw it open. She inhaled several gulps of the fresh night air, savouring the feeling as the motion filled her lungs.

She had only spoken to Ryan Reece on three occasions and already it seemed that he had imprinted himself on her mind, heart and soul. No matter how hard she tried, she just could not get him out of her head. It was an impossible feat! She had not been the same since their encounter at The Wardrobe a few days earlier. After he had walked out of the store, Noelle had drifted off into uncontrollable daydreaming with Ryan starring as her Prince Charming upon a white steed. And, at closing time, when all the employees were leaving the store, she had walked face-first into the glass door after forgetting to open it. Her co-workers had gotten a good laugh at her expense and to make matters worse, she had gotten a “coco” – a bump, the size of a pebble just below the hairline, to show for it.

She had been making a concerted effort to avoid him at school thereafter. For the last three days, Noelle had found herself looking left and right over her shoulders whenever she visited her locker. Then, it had dawned on her that he wore a white uniform shirt so it was evident that he was in the upper school; boys in the lower school wore full khaki suits. She had investigated, nonetheless, and had been happy to confirm that he was a member of the Twelfth Grade population. That meant that his classes were housed on another block which was comforting; she would not have to worry about running into him in her building. But, as a precautionary measure, she began to avoid the cafeteria, resorting to eating lunch outside on the quadrangle instead. When Danielle mentioned that Ryan was trying out for the Track Team, she stopped walking past the playfield at certain hours of the day. This was done to great inconvenience to herself as her Form Room was situated just beyond the field and she had to walk the long way around to get to class but she remained steadfast. Come hell or high water, she was determined to conquer the disturbing attraction to Ryan Reece. The number one strategy, in a situation like this, had to be having minimal contact with the object of the unwanted feelings. Noelle reasoned that such a tactic must have proven successful a time or two since a great man or woman had coined the phrase: “Out of sight, out of mind!”

So then, why was she still thinking about the boy constantly? She could not even close her eyes for a nap anymore. Ryan Reece and his haunting green eyes were there taunting her every time she tried. She had been unable to sleep for the last couple nights and she was afraid of the prospect of things being no different that night. Ryan Reece seemed to be there – like a duppy sitting on her shoulders – twenty-four/seven.

Face it, girl! She admitted grudgingly to herself. Danielle is right…YUH LIKE HIM!

Standing by her window, staring down at the garden and Trisha’s one-time house, she felt even worst. It seemed that her life was full of nothing but misery lately. First, Trisha moved thousands of miles away to blinking America leaving her “alone and hurt”. And now, Mr. Ryan Reece and his blouse-an-skirt green eyes had stridden uninvited into her life making it impossible for her to do something as simple as homework.

She placed one hand on one trim hip and ran the other through her curls as she started to walk away from the window. A sudden movement down below caught her eye; she stopped dead in her tracks. Turning back to the window, she shifted the curtain.

A boy was walking up the path to the house that had once belonged to the Lees. He paused at the porch grille and fished a set of keys from his pocket. In the soft glow of the incandescent light, Noelle was able to catch a glimpse of his profile just before he inserted a key into the lock, opened the door and stepped out of her line of vision. Her photographic brain had memorized everything about Ryan – including the sideways view of him. She had never before seen anyone, especially someone Black, with a nose like that. She guessed that was yet another physical attribute he must have inherited from the Caucasian side of his family. And, now she had seen, or thought she had seen, that same nose on that guy!

She shook her head and winced in self-pity. She had to be paranoid. Ryan Reece was making her paranoid!

Lordy, lordy! She thought, closing the window and traipsing to her bed. Now I’m imagining that the fool-fool bwoy lives next door! Mi really pathetic.

* * *