Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg – Review by Kim McSorley
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 was my first Elizabeth Eulberg book and I was not disappointed. Better Off Friends is the contemporary When Harry Met Sally.
Eulberg alternates each chapter from the perspective of Macallan and Levi. As a reader, this allowed me to understand what each character was thinking and truly understand how deeply they felt for one another. We get present day mini commentaries from Macallan and Levi at the end of each chapter.
We first meet Macallan and Levi in 7th grade. Levi moved from California to Wisconsin and on his first day of middle school Macallan gets stuck showing him around. She is still grieving and hurting from the loss of her mother and wants nothing to do with Levi. You begin to get the impression that Levi has a thing for her. Later, they discover they both love an obscure foreign television show. Instant connection. We see their friendship progress through high school. The question remains, does it progress into more than friends?
As much as I loved both characters, I also got so frustrated with them. I just wanted to shout from the rooftop so they could hear me. On the other hand, it was realistic witnessing them work through their emotions and who they are and who they want to be to each other.
I cannot go without mentioning all the Wisconsin references. Being from Wisconsin, I established an instant connection from that perspective. Lots of Green Bay Packers, Friday night fish fries, Culver’s butter burgers, cheese curds, custard, and bubblers. What’s a bubbler? You’ll have to read the book and find out.
Better Off Friends is a contemporary, heart-warming, just right balance of friendship and more than just friends. It became one of my 2014 top reads.
Kim McSorley is a K-8 Reading Specialist in Franklin, Wisconsin. She is passionate about teaching children to read – a process that is not often easy. Therefore, her pursuit is to help children set goals, overcome reading obstacles and become successful readers.
I loved this book. It was a very nice change from all the dystopian literature. Many of my students are ready for something new and fresh. This is certainly that. The book is making the rounds in my ninth grade classroom and inspiring some good conversations.
Mrs. Williford, do you think you can fall in love with your best friend?
Is it a smart thing to do, Mrs. Williford?
Is it possible for it to work, Mrs. Williford?
Yes, yes, yes.
P.S. I was inspired to read Eulberg’s other books. This is the best, although I also enjoyed Prom and Prejudice and The Lonely Hearts Club a great deal. They will soon make their way to my classroom library.
Seeing a backlash against dystopia too. Thanks for an alternate title.
I like realistic fiction. It may not have all of the action of dystopian books, but it sounds like a good read for teens. I know my grandsons don’t specifically have girlfriends, but they do everything with friends — that include girls. Think it is healthy.
I agree with you Kim; I liked the way each chapter is presented from Macallan or Levi’s point of view. Levi’s family becomes a part of Macallan’s family. They have weekly dinners, many of which Macallan cooks. Macallan is passionate, cool, and totally focused on being a good friend. Levi is on the football team and the track team, and enjoys his guy friends. At some point, Levi begins to feel more than friendship for Macallan and when he expresses his feelings to Macallan, she goes to Ireland for the summer. What will happen to Macallan and Levi? Elizabeth Eulberg’s characters are believable teens and for those who like friendships, high school drama, and the tension and warmth of romance, this book will not disappoint! I really enjoy Elizabeth Eulberg’s books (my senior high students did too) and even though newly retired, I like her realistic take on the drama between friends, more than friends, and boyfriends and girlfriends:)