Release: February 25, 2014
Source: Won from publisher
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.Can guys and girls ever really be just friends?
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?
Yes. Obviously. If Better Off Friends truly tried to answer that question, there would be no point to its story; anyone with adequate social experience knows that friendship comes in all forms, regardless of gender. However, Elizabeth Eulberg's latest romantic comedy luckily does not attempt to offer universal relationship advice, condemning all platonic male-female friendships to failure or assuring them success. Instead, it tells one small story—the story of Macallan and Levi and where their relationship belongs—and while their tale may not be the grand, universal model that the blurb makes it out to be, it is delightful to read about.
Stretching over the span of five years, from seventh grade to junior year, Better off Friends spins a long, drawn-out tale and creates a remarkably well-developed relationship. The years-long plot gives Macallan and Levi's legendary friendship time to develop and presents many obstacles along the way. Their banter never feels forced because, after watching them grow up together, it is easy to accept how well they know each other. Eulberg also keeps her story snappy by inserting short snippets of present-day dialogue at the beginning of each chapter as the characters look back on earlier events. The long string of memories, combined with the preset-day commentary on them, creates a relationship so realistic that readers will be invested in its end, anticipating whether or not the two characters really are just friends, and hoping everything works out either way.
Better Off Friends is not only a romance and friendship novel, though; it also focuses on family. Readers get glimpses of both Macallan's and Levi's home lives, but Eulberg focuses more on the former character's. Macallan's mother died shortly before the start of the story—which creates an emotional subplot—and has an uncle who happens to suffer from a mild developmental disorder—which gives Macallan a passion for standing against disability-based bullying. Eulberg writes both of these family members, as well as their effect on Macallan, in an impressively natural way. She does not use either one as a plot device, but rather a complete person in Macallan's life who has a huge effect on the complex individual she becomes.
I only have one complaint about this book—the way it sometimes seems to reinforce stereotypical gender descriptions. Because it tells a story about friendship between boys and a girls, it includes some lines such as "the difference between having a best friend who is a girl instead of a guy," and "girls are so much more [insert vague adjective here] than boys." As someone who passionately hates adherence to gender roles, I wish Eulberg had not treated gender as the deciding factor in a person's personality. Maybe all of these lines were meant in a less-than-serious way, but I could not help growing annoyed at the stereotypes.
Still, Better Off Friends is so adorable, sweet, and addictive in every other regard that I could not help being enamored with it anyway. As I said, it is a small story, but it has enough heart to share with thousands of similar stories. Despite my one complaint, this book and I are better off friends.