Better Off Friends
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Number of Pages: 288
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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?
Late 80s/early 90s Meg Ryan was one of my favorite actresses. Sleepless in Seattle, The Doors, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Innerspace. I loved these movies and could watch them again and again. The best Meg Ryan movie is the well-known gem When Harry Met Sally. I've seen this movie probably a hundred times (and that really probably isn't even that much of an exaggeration). Most of my peeps will know exactly what I'm talking about, but for you young 'uns--When Harry Met Sally is a late 80s film that asked the age old question: can a man and a woman really just be friends? This film is so awesome and cute and romantic and funny that just typing this is making me want to watch it again. If you haven't seen it, please look it up. You won't regret it. So why am I talking about this film? Because this book is basically that, updated and teen-ified. I loved it.
Better Off Friends follows Macallan and Levi spanning from middle school into high school. I loved that we got to watch their friendship over the span of a few years. The two first meet when Levi moves to chilly Wisconsin from California while the two are in middle school. Levi, rocking long surfer hair, is a bit afraid to be starting at a new school and is finding it hard to connect with his male classmates. Macallan is still recovering from the death of her mother a few months before the start of our story. Macallan is tapped by the administration to give Levi a tour of the school which she doesn't feel up for, at all, but when she sees him sitting alone at lunch she cannot help but feel bad and invites him to sit with her and her friends. The two find a bond with a mutual love for a British TV show called Buggy and Floyd that no one else seems to know about, and before you know it they become best friends.
Their friendship isn't always easy, of course, Levi starts dating one of Macallan's best girl friends, and both deal with the occasional twinges of jealousy and speculation about whether or not they should be more. Their friendship is especially tested once Levi is accepted into the group of jock boys after he makes the football team in high school and starts spending less and less time with Macallan, but they always seem to find their way back to each other.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the way that their families become intertwined, as well. Macallan's father is a wonderful parent, but it is hard for him to work and be a single father. He has some help from Macallan's uncle--who has a mild mental disability--but he learns to lean a bit on Levi's parents, his mother especially. I loved Levi's mom. She really takes Macallan under her wing which is exactly what the younger girl needs. I adore it when mothers are normal in YA. It happens so rarely.
My favorite part of the novel is the way in which each alternating chapter ends with a "conversation" between Macallan and Levi. This, too, echoes When Harry Met Sally which has these cut-aways to true stories of older couples explaining how they met. My cooperating teacher used this clip during my student teaching last semester when discussing: What is Love? before starting Shakespearean sonnets. The stories are real, but the people on screen are actors. If you have a minute, it is seriously so sweet.
So can boys and girls just be friends in this story? You'll have to read it to find out. I'll leave it at this: I loved the whole book. I loved Macallan. I loved Levi. I loved their friendship. I've read all of Ms. Eulberg's books, and while I have enjoyed them all, this one is definitely my favorite. It was cute without being cutesy and just fun to read. Highly recommended.