Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

betterofffriendsFor 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?

-synopsis via Goodreads

You guys, I have a confession: I am a HUGE Elizabeth Eulberg fangirl.  A few years ago, I requested Take a Bow from the library on a whim.  Well, I blew through it in a matter of hours and have since read everything else she’s written.  Without fail, I love, love, LOVE everything she writes.  So this is not exactly an impartial review.

While I don’t think anything will ever compare to the love I have for Take a Bow, Better Off Friends was a great book.  I loved meeting Levi and Macallan as awkward middle schoolers, and watching their personalities develop over the course of several years.  I think Eulberg has an incredible talent for creating rich, three-dimensional characters, and for crafting believable, authentic relationships, particularly boy-girl friendships.

I thought the story moved very fluidly, despite the large chunk of time it covered; I felt like I had enough information to really see their friendship unfold, without any large gaps missing or tiny details that made the story lag.  Despite the commentary from present-day Levi and Macallan at the end of each chapter, I wasn’t confused at all; the plot flowed in a logical manner.  I also really enjoyed the alternating viewpoints, because I liked being able to see things from both characters’ perspectives.

While I definitely loved Levi and Macallan’s friendship, I think my favorite relationship may have been between Macallan and Levi’s mother.  One of my pet peeves in YA is that parents are either really bad or not present at all, and I think Eulberg did a great job of creating positive parental figures, and not only that, but someone who could serve as a surrogate mother for Macallan during a time when she really needed someone.

As much as I’ve raved about the book, there were times when Levi drove me CRAZY.  When he complained about Macallan manipulating him into spending time with her, or went on about how important and great it was for him to have the guys and a team and a girlfriend, I just wanted to smack him.  I’m sure Macallan made mistakes also, but for some reason, the way Levi treated her at these moments really bothered me.  While this behavior seems typical of teenagers, I just felt like with him, it went on for too long with no growth.

Really, though, that’s my only objection, and it’s a small one.  I truly loved Better Off Friends.  The writing is smart and funny, the characters are loveable, and I devoured it in one sitting.  I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever had a crush on their best friend, as well as fans of Sarah Dessen, Jennifer E. Smith, and other queens of YA romance.

Copy received from Scholastic via NetGalley.  Better Off Friends will be published on February 25, 2014.

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