Sometimes the perfect book comes along at just the perfect time. That’s what happened for me with Elizabeth Eulberg’s Better off Friends.
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? 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?
Seriously, this one came along at the best time. I’ve been on a pretty big fantasy kick recently (for like the past year! haha) so I think I was ready for a quality contemporary read to really dig into. And talk about quality! Better off Friends is probably one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in a while…right up there with Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen!
I’d heard this one compared to a high school version of When Harry Met Sally and for real, Better off Friends is definitely an homage to that classic film. Macallan and Levi are kind of thrown together by their school principal, but quickly form a relationship based on need and a very silly British television show. Macallan is struggling to make a new life after her mother’s death, while new-guy Levi is simply looking to fit in, so both think of their friendship as kind of a new start. I can completely relate to Macallan and Levi’s friendship because it’s always been easier for me to be friends with guys than with girls. There is a freedom that comes from a friendship with a guy that one can’t get with another girl, but as Levi and Macallan soon discover that freedom usually comes with it’s own share of drama.
Eulberg writes the swoony, drama laden friendship between Macallan and Levi with expert skill. Each chapter alternates between Levi’s narration and Macallan’s. As I’ve mentioned in the past, sometimes switching between narrators can annoy me, but Levi and Macallan’s voices are so clear and distinct that I never have to check back to see who is telling the story. In between each chapter Eulberg has inserted commentary from both narrators, just like in When Harry Met Sally, and the banter between the two is sheer perfection! These were probably my favorite parts of the story, they just added both fun and perspective to Macallan and Levi’s story.
But this isn’t just Levi and Macallan’s story. Throughout the book, we get glimpses of how friendships change as we get older, especially in that transition from middle school to high school. Also, we see the way in which Levi’s mother serves as a stand-in mom for Macallan who is navigating her teenage years without her own mother. Each of these secondary relationships are realistically painful and joyful and just so well portrayed.
You really need to consider adding Better off Friends to your TBR list. I promise you wont’ be sorry, especially if you are looking for a strong contemporary read! It is most definitely a YA title, but I believe that older middle school readers, as well as adults, will appreciate it just as much as I did.
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)
Format: ARC (e-galley)
Length: 288 pages
Buy the Book: Better Off Friends