Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Release date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Point (Scholastic)
Rating: Cute and funny, if insubstantial.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY . . . for teens, from romantic comedy star Elizabeth Eulberg.
For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can't be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan's friends. They are platonic and happy that way.
Eventually they realize they're best friends -- which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't keep getting in each other's way. Guys won't ask Macallan out because they think she's with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can't help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?
From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again -- and one kiss away from true love?
This book is so adorable it will make your teeth ache and brighten even the most rotten of moods. I read it nearly straight through on a cross-continental plane ride, and it certainly made for a pleasant and entertaining trip. This book won't end up being very memorable to me, though, and that's because it doesn't quite go deep enough. It doesn't dig into the characters the way I like, nor does it have much of an overarching plot besides, "Let's watch these really cute people who are obviously meant to be finally come to be." And trust me, that's one of my most favorite plots out there, but Better Off Friends certainly suffers from a few problems. And yet it's really cute. LIke really, really, really cute. And it made me happy.
These aren't serious problems, mind you. There are no rage-inducing issues, and the romance, like, I said, is just so insanely cute. Levi and Macallan (minus points for silly name) are best friends nearly from the moment they meet in seventh grade. Levi's just moved to small town Wisconsin from Los Angeles, and he doesn't exactly fit in. (Obligatory mini-rant about how it seems to be impossible for authors not from LA to write a convincing LA character. Levi had some eye-rollingly cliche bits right at the beginning that annoyed me, seeing as I'm a Los Angeles native, but most people obviously won't object to these things, and most of my issues resolved themselves).
Macallan and Levi are awesome and supportive platonic best friends. They see each other through heartache and grief and hormones (oh lord, the scene where poor Macallan first gets her period...). Each chapter ends with a dialogue-only chat scene between Macallan and Levi, and heck if those aren't the most hilarious things in the whole book. They obviously have chemistry, and everyone around them, including their tight-knit families, seem to think they belong together, but... do they? Is it romantic chemistry they have? And if so, will acting upon their feelings ruin a friendship that means the world to them?
|The picture of post-coital, just-ruined-a-friendship regret.|
Tangent: WHYYYY did I never have an adorable straight male best friend growing up whom I could easily transition into loving? There is no justice in the world. Macallan, you lucky bitch.
It took me a while to put my finger on what it was about this book that prevented it from being perfect, and I think it might be the time frame of the novel. Better Off Friends encompasses quite a few years despite being only 288 pages. Most of the action is told in summation, meaning it gets skipped over and then recounted to us looking backwards. It caused me to be one step removed from the action, like I didn't get to fully invest in and inhabit the scenes. I guess that was part of the problem; I wasn't invested. Don't get me wrong; I was invested in Levi and Macallan because of the cuteness, particularly the cuteness the chapter-ending chats of squee-worthy fluffy adorableness.
Levi and Macallan are good for each other. They geek out over the same TV shows and support each other and help each other out. It's a pure and easy friendship, and it's adorable to read about and super easy to ship as something more. They're pretty interesting characters, though I don't think they're as developed as they could be. We get information on their family, their hopes, and other details necessary for a character to be fully realized, but not quite.
The plot really yanks you back and forth. At first, the repressed feelings and near-misses are cute and frustrating, but they do become repetitive after a bit. This book is told in alternating first person viewpoints, switching between Levi and Macallan. I thought Eulberg did quite a good job on the two viewpoints. This book is extremely enjoyable, especially if you've been recently traumatized by a heavy book and need something that you don't need to really sink your teeth into. There are five star fluff books out there, of course, but those are the books that not only make me laugh, but make me care. Better Off Friends made me giggle and it made me ship, but it didn't quite find a way into my heart.
(For the record, I DO believe that boys and girls can be just friends, and best friends at that.)
|Here, have a dancing Billy Crystal. You're welcome.|