Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Scholastic!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]
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 Goodreads)
I always know, going into an Elizabeth Eulberg novel, to expect a fun and heartfelt contemporary story. (And I can say this with authority because I’ve read four of her five novels now. I’ve got to get my hands on Prom and Prejudice!) Better Off Friends is, without a doubt, precisely that kind of novel! While it hasn’t dethroned The Lonely Hearts Club as my favorite, it’s definitely a very close second.
Levi (a boy) and Macallan (a girl) are best friends, and this is their story. It starts at the beginning of their friendship, when Levi was the new guy at Macallan’s school. Then, the chapters take us through the years with them, during both the highs and lows of their friendship. Of course, the big question remains: Are they really just friends, or will they be something more?
I really like that Eulberg chose to alternate the chapters between Macallan and Levi. Apart from keeping things interesting, it provided perspective on how each person felt at any given time. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know them both better! I loved Macallan’s unabashed pride in being slightly nerdy, offbeat and candid. It was also a major bonus that she loved cooking, and made things that sound freaking delicious (and made me crave them!). I loved how Levi was thoughtful, silly and sweet at turns, instinctively able to read Macallan’s moods. He was seriously just an irresistible mix of athletic boy + sensitive soul.
Their friendship really came to life on these pages, particularly in the bits where they banter between chapters. Eulberg was able to capture what friendship is like in real life – messy, imperfect, true. There are so many things that I really found relatable. Every friendship experiences high points, where the two people in question gel perfectly, connect on a whole other level and just immediately are there for each other. There are also the low points, where external fears and concerns and unidentified feelings (or the ones you pretend don’t exist) might get in the way of proper communication. What Eulberg manages to show us, through Macallan and Levi, is that friendship is the sort of thing you have to work at. You have to make an effort to reach out, to be there, to be honest. She also manages to show how, no matter how far apart or how long apart, real friendship will remain a constant.
I also really liked that Macallan’s father and uncle, and Levi’s parents had strong roles to play. I’ve always had a soft spot for stories where the family is actually involved, and that is certainly the case here. Even though they don’t necessarily interfere, family is important to both Macallan and Levi, so they are a constant part of their lives and friendship. The other secondary characters come in the form of friends and significant others, a constantly rotating cast that was fun to view from the constancy of Macallan and Levi’s friendship.
Of course, there is the question of romance. When faced with a guy-girl friendship, someone is always going to bring up the idea that “you two would be so cute together!” It happens to Levi and Macallan more times than they can count. The only question is – does anything more than friendly happen between them? It was definitely a fun angle to explore, and I think Eulberg handled this question perfectly here.
Just thinking about Better Off Friends puts a smile on my face, as it’s a really cute book! I really liked both Macallan and Levi, and loved their banter, and learning the story of their friendship. Eulberg certainly hit my sweet spot with this story, and I definitely think a lot of other readers will enjoy it too!