Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

3 April, 2014 Reviews 17 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth EulbergBetter Off Friends by elizabeth eulberg
Series: Standalone
Published by Point, Scholastic Press on February 25, 2014
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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?

I freaking love contemporary YA, which doesn’t make sense, since these are the books that most often let me down. But I keep coming back for more, hoping to find the book that makes my soul sing. Or sings to my soul. Something about singing souls. And, well, this is how I feel about Better Off Friends:

The synopsis asks the question, can guys and girls ever really be just friends? For some reason, I’m obsessed with this idea. In my head, I believe guys and girls can truly be just friends. But my heart tells me that’s never the case. When a book offers to answer this question, I get irrationally excited that it’ll prove my head right. And even more excited when my head is wrong. Because the feels.

So this book is fun. The first two chapters left me stupid confused. At first, I couldn’t tell when I had stopped reading the author’s dedication and started reading the book. Then I was like, why am I reading about middle school characters? I rarely read middle-grade and I didn’t remember signing up for it. Then, I realized what was going on.

Elizabeth Eulberg introduces you to Macallan, Emily, Danielle, and Levi when they’re in SEVENTH GRADE. AND I LOVED IT. Finally, I got to read about actual friendships built on common interests that change quite distinctly as the characters navigate the awkward years from seventh to eleventh grade. I love, love, love when books span more than two days in the life of our characters (which seems like the norm, these days). So much CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. YES!

Macallan’s and Levi’s friendship is so insanely real. I found myself jealous of and relating to their relationship at every turn. At one point, they go on a double date and can’t stop referencing inside jokes and carrying on their own conversation. Macallan’s boyfriend sheepishly explains to Levi’s date, “There’s no stopping the Macallan and Levi show,” or something like that, I had paused when I realized how often people say that about me and my female best friends. And the fact that I could relate their boy-girl friendship to my best female friendships made me realize how perfectly Elizabeth Eulberg had constructed their relationship; gender didn’t matter–Macallan and Levi truly are just best friends. The age-old question had been answered!

But then! I loved watching as Macallan and Levi tried to navigate their changing feelings. Each moment of indecision was so–I know, I’m beating this word to death–relatable. Do they like like each other? Don’t they? Should they say something? What if it ruins the friendship? What if not saying something ruins the friendship? I, myself, couldn’t decide if I’d be happier if they ended up together or ended up happy as friends. But who was I kidding myself? Of course I was shipping them hard–so hard that, like them, I didn’t even realize it until it was almost too late.

The other fantastic thing about this book? The focus on family. There are actual, PRESENT parents in this book. Like, always present. These young high schoolers throw parties…and their parents chaperone. Alcohol-free parties. You know what that reminds me of? My entire high school career. Seriously, what is with all the books in YA highlighting absentee parents and revolving around the MC’s life-changing moment at a crowded high school kegger? While these parties occasionally take place…they are far from the norm. I so enjoyed reading a book that portrayed a realistic high school experience. And very realistic parents. I absolutely adored Levi’s mom and Macallan’s dad and uncle. Truly great, endearing characters.

Also, Macallan is such a kick-ass role model and I love how often Levi mentally acknowledges this (as the chapters are told from their opposing viewpoints). No, she doesn’t single-handedly save the world, but she does always stick up for what’s right, despite some classmates constantly treating her like crap for it. Macallan is empowered enough to walk over to a table of idiotic high school douchebags and call them on their crap, while Levi stands idly by wishing he had her balls. Who could possibly not love her after that? (And it’s actually even more emotionally satisfying if you know why she does it.)

I realize my review isn’t really painting Levi as a winner right now…but he’s adorable. He’s dorky and insecure and he does and says a lot of stupid things in his quest for acceptance…but he always realizes what an idiot he’s being. And he is (usually) so, so sweet to Macallan. He really grows out of and back into an upstanding guy by the novel’s end. And there are Kelly Clarkson quotes.

So basically, I don’t know why you’re wasting your time not reading this book. Because I really, really want to discuss it with anyone and everyone right meow.



Kiona is an aspiring writer and graphic designer with a penchant for smooth, creamy espresso and all things pink. She has a hate-hate relationship with her kitten, Franklin, and is sometimes perceived as "too snarky" during job interviews. Whatever that means.

17 Responses to “Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg”

  1. Jessica

    Cuddlebuggery reviews rarely disappoint me, but I love love LOVED this one.

    I feel the same way about contemporary YA, none of it ever seems real enough to me. Over the top parties, no parents, teens who don’t talk like teens, and shoving adult issues onto an age group just for drama’s sake straight up BORES me.

    High school was dramatic enough without all that stuff, and it sounds like this book has actually managed to portray that. Will definitely be reading this one. Thank you!

    • Kiona

      Thank you!

      EXACTLY. High school is the very definition of drama. And it’s so difficult to immerse yourself in a book when it just screams “Unrealistic!” I feel like it’s weird how much I love seeing parents in YA these days…but that shouldn’t be as uncommon as it is. Glad you’re going to read this, though. I hope you love it as much as I do!

  2. Ashley @ Sea What She's Reading

    I LOVED this book so much!!! Macallan was such an awesome heroine, and despite Levi’s many flaws, I still liked him. Part of me didn’t want to ship them, and the other part wasn’t having that! I gave the book 4 1/2 stars because I do believe that guys and girls can be friends without having feelings for each other. I thought the author handled that age old question very well though, so this book is now sitting on my favorites shelf! Great review 🙂
    Ashley @ Sea What She’s Reading recently posted…March Wrap-Up!My Profile

    • Kiona

      My very same dilemma. Ahh I wish I still felt that way–maybe as I get older, I’ll develop some solid uncomplicated male friednds haha.

  3. Kate Copeseeley

    Intriguing enough to add to my TBR. I really, really love stories about best friends that fall in love. (Incidentally, it’s also my favorite Kdrama trope.)

    What do you read normally that doesn’t let you down? I have this horrible vision of you reading nothing but YA Contemp after YA Contemp and sobbing to yourself about your bitter disappointment.
    Kate Copeseeley recently posted…So Excited I’ve Been Spouting Gibberish All Day!My Profile

    • Kiona

      Then you’re totally going to loooove this book.

      Haha I’m not usually disappointed by high fantasy or historical YA. I feel like it’s just really easy to get everything in a contemp wrong…and still get published. And the synopses can be sooo misleading, unfortunately. I try to keep the sobbing to a minimum haha.

    • Kiona

      I knew his name sounded familiar and yet the whole time I couldn’t place it, so thank you! Levi’s such a good name.

  4. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    Omg that baby picture is SO adorable and hilarious! I’m glad you loved this one so much, I can definitely see how the friendship between Levi and Macallan appealed to you. They were just so close and it was really adorable how they were trying to navigate through the changing terms of their relationship 🙂
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…March RecapMy Profile

    • Kiona

      Exactly. Even when he’s being suckish and she’s being blind, they’re still adorable. I just love them so much. Almost as much as I love that baby gif…

  5. marie

    This was a great book. I couldn’t stop reading it because I was caught up in Levi and Macallan’s cute yet platonic relationship. I know what it’s like to be in that scenario but these two lovebirds really had it right from the start. I mean, the best foundation for a relationship is friendship, right? They genuinely cared for each other, watched each others’ back; they were like two pods in a pea. The author truly knew how to illustrate the down side of being in middle ground but I like the way how the story ends; Levi and Macallan being brave enough to face their fears and take that risk instead of having to face what if’s.

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