Review: “Bring You Back” by Malynda Schlegel

Book Title: Bring You Back

Author: Malynda Schlegel

Series: Bellsby Beach, Book 1

Rating: 5⭐

Release Date: August 27th, 2020

Goodreads | (Available on KU)

Synopsis: Camille Godfrey left her hometown of Bellsby Beach a year ago, to follow her brother into a new life. She left behind the boy who loved her and her friends, because she knew it was the only way to keep her family together. But when tragedy strikes and she returns to Bellsby, because it’s the only home she’s ever known, things are different. Julian Fowler, the boy who holds her heart, is a broken shell of a man who has focused on other things to ignore the pain he’s dealing with. Not just Camille’s departure, but truths in his own life he can’t seem to come to terms with.

Review: Oh my angst. This book blew me away. It was so intense, but fun and so complicated and so interesting. As is the case with a lot of books recently, I’ve been going in without knowing too much. I read the blurb and I make note of certain details, but I let the book do the talking. And Bring You Back did a whole lot of talking. This book is about friendship, it’s about young love, it’s about complicated love, it’s about sex, it’s also got heartbreak and unrequited love, it’s got a whole lot of pain, it’s got hilarious characters with quick tongues and witty banter. It’s a book that has everything, but not once do you feel like it’s an overwhelming number of things to focus on. It’s perfect and that makes it such an incredible read.

The book is told through two people – Camille and Julian. They’ve got so much history together and apart, it’s so stressful watching them come together and then apart over the course of the book. The other characters include Tommy, Reyna, Banks, Valerie (Reyna’s mother), Naomi (Julian’s mother), Brent (Julian’s father) and a host of people who wander in and out of the story. Camile, Julian, Tommy, Reyna, Banks and Caleb (Camille’s brother) used to be friends. And then a year ago, Caleb was going away and Camille went with him, because he’s her only remaining family. She leaves a heartbroken Julian behind, one who almost kissed her, and her friends too. Nobody is happy about this turn of events and rightfully so, so obviously with Camille’s exit, they’ve all gone on to live their lives not expecting her to return.

“Life takes, and it has taken too much from me. Life manipulates, gives the illusion of choice to maintain control. I didn’t have a choice. Now I do, and I won’t be controlled. I’m holding the gavel, setting things in order, balancing the scales.”

But she does. When tragedy strikes and she has nowhere else to go, Camille returns to Bellsby Beach and her old friends. Except, things have changed. Julian, her one true love, is now sleeping with Reyna. Tommy, her dearest friend, is still pining over Reyna. Banks, not really a friend but a friend, is still weird as hell. And then there’s all the adults and their weird lives and the mess they add to the chaos.

For Camille, knowing that Julian is with Reyna is unacceptable. She’s actually such a relatable character. Camille is going through something really hard, but instead of opening up about it, talking about it and letting people in, she’s got her walls up. Even Julian has to work twice as hard to get under her skin. Camille is sarcastic, funny and she might come across as a bitch, but she’s just the most genuine person in this friends group. She says what’s on her mind and she doesn’t let anybody tell her otherwise. Camille doesn’t have time for pandering and mollycoddling and it’s so refreshing to have such a real character leading the story. 

At first, when you see her find ways to get Julian back, you wish she would stop. It’s hurting people, but you can see that getting him back isn’t about hurting those people. She loves him and in her own way, Camille tries to let him know that. But it’s not going like she planned. Life never does, does it?

“We have our own battle. I’ll bring him back. I’ll fix us. Even if that means other things have to break in the process.”

Because the main trope is friends to enemies to friends to lovers, you know it’s going to be a slooooooow burn. And good lord, all that tension between Julian and Camille is just so delicious. You can see how much they want to hate each other and push each other away, but the harder they try, the more they come back together. Like moths to a flame. I love how Camille and Julian have all this history and this pain between them, but they’re not beating around the bush. They’re flat out talking about everything that went wrong and how it’s not right that they’re both expected to just forget all about that and focus on the now. Their relationship and dialogue is so raw and ugh, it’s so beautiful. From the minute Julian and Camille are face-to-face after all that time, you can feel the sizzle off the page. That’s the kind of relationship I find myself enjoying these days. 

I absolutely loved the banter. Put Camille and Banks in a chapter and you’re bound to get gold. But put Banks and Julian together and you will find yourself cracking up a lot more than you expected. The friendship they all share is what really makes the characters and the book so strong. But let’s be honest, there’s a lot of toxicity in the friends group. It really makes you question a lot of the things you want and the feelings you’re feeling for certain people. When you’ve got a bit of a triangle, things are bound to get messy. And it’s always hard to read those scenes, because you don’t know who to feel bad for. But the messiness and the pain that everybody goes through is really just so integral to the book that you somehow accept that this is what it is going to be. 

“She won’t come out and tell me. A piece for a piece. She’ll set them on the table, one by one, until there’s enough to solve the puzzle. Then she’ll make you put them together yourself.”

The last two chapters leave you wanting more and it ends with a cliffhanger leading into the second book. I know I should have stopped before those two chapters, because now I’m just biting my nails waiting to find out what happens next! But good god, Malynda promised lots when she sent me the ARC and I didn’t think that she would deliver on everything. She delivered and then some. This book was an unexpected, but welcome, addition to my month. And I must admit that I am a fan. The writing, the characters, the world building, the relationships, the pain – it’s all so real and raw.

Brace yourself. Once you start, you’re not going to be able to put this book down. It’s really hot, it’s really angsty and it’s really really good.

Thanks to Malynda Schlegel for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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