Friends to lovers theme is the theme of my debut novel so it's no wonder I would want to read a novel centered around this theme. I discovered this book on Goodreads and I put it on my to-read shelf, waiting for a chance to buy it and read it, but there was a long queue of books I'd already downloaded, so I had almost forgotten about it. Then I won a contest where I could choose an ebook I wanted to read, and I thought I'd pick this one. It turns out this has been the smartest choice in months.
This book is absolutely amazing; it's heartwarming, romantic, passionate, heartbreaking, funny all in one. I sort of knew I was going to like it, because like I said, I love the best friends to lovers theme, but I didn't expect to LOVE it like I did. It is so beautifully and well written; emotions are described in such a perfect way that they are almost tangible; characters feel so real that I ended up feeling happy when they were, sad when they were and in love when they were, and all this is achieved without the use of first person point of view, which is brilliant.
Lauren Moore and Michael Delaney (a.k.a. Del) have been best friends in high school; but after Michael graduated, he left their hometown and moved to New York, away from his past and from Lauren too. Eight years later they meet again, when he brings his daughter to the day care where Lauren works, and both their lives are turned upside-down. Feelings that have been carefully suppressed to avoid the pain quickly resurface, and although they try to convince themselves that they've drifted apart and things can't go back to how they were back then, they know what they shared is still burning in their hearts. I won't tell you more, because that would be spoiling the fun. You simply have to read it!The story is set in the present day in 2011/2012, but through flashbacks we are taken back to their high school years and we get to see how their friendship started and grew. This helped feel a stronger connection with the characters, and understand their present. I actually loved this technique because it gave the right amount of back story, to help understand their past, but this skipping back and forth was never boring or confusing. It was brilliant.
Do I need to say that I fell head over heels in love with the male character, Michael Delaney? Maybe I don't. Michael Delaney isn't Prince Charming: He's the school badass, always getting kicked out of school for getting in trouble, but as I read his whole story, through flashbacks that helped to understand what he'd gone through in his childhood, I couldn't help but feel strongly for him. It wasn't his fault if he was acting like a jerk, trying to keep up his bad boy reputation: He'd been hurt, and he was only trying to cope with the pain, but he didn't know any other way to do it. I loved him from the moment he stood up for Lauren in class, and from the moment he left her that note in her locker. There were moments when I felt the need to slap him, especially in the high school descriptions, and moments when I wanted to jump into the book and hug him. In spite of his troubled past and his bad choices, he managed to turn into a hard-working, responsible man and loving father, and little by little we get to read about how much love he has inside his heart, which makes him even more adorable.
Lauren is a wonderful heroine. She's smart, passionate, strong and loving. When she sees Michael for the first time, she knows she should stay away from him, because he's her total opposite, but she can see past his mask, the one he wants everyone to see, and she gets to see his vulnerability and she gets to his heart. I loved the way she didn't care about what other people thought when they saw them together, or how she always managed to bring out the best in him because she had faith in him.
This wonderful book is about friendship, about love, about redemption, about how the strongest bonds can survive the distance and the heartbreak. I loved every bit of it, and this is definitely one of the books I will want to read over and over again.
And after reading this book, I'll never be able to watch Dirty Dancing again without thinking of Del :-)
PS if you keep singing "Fix you" by Coldplay in your head long after you've finished the book, don't worry: You're not alone. :-)
By the way, if you've already read Back To You, you definitely have to check out this special alternate scene from Del's POV, which is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time - at least it was for me. But read it ONLY if you've already read the book, as this is a big spoiler!! Click here to read a scene that will make you go Wow and Aww most of the time.