Book Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

I really like the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, and that is the only reason I picked this up. Sadly, the concept doesn’t really translate to a young adult novel and the characters fell completely flat. Better Off FriendsBetter Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Published: February 25th by Point/Scholastic

Source: ARC from publisher

Synopsis (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?

My thoughts:

I am not the target audience for this book.

Just getting that out of the way at the beginning.

This is not a YA novel that I feels has much adult crossover appeal. It’s a good fit for younger teens who want a light, clean romance that is very straightforward and predictable. It is not for someone who is looking for rich and complicated character development, interesting subplots, or thought-provoking writing.

There’s a difference between premise and plot. The premise of a book is the hook, the image, the opening scene that will sell the book. The plot is what happens, the events that keep you actually reading. This book is all premise and no plot. You can sum this book up as “When Harry Met Sally for the YA set” and that is quite literally all that it is.

Sure, some stuff happens in the book. Macallan and Levi are friends, and then as they get into high school, start to develop an attraction to one another. But a series of misunderstandings and near misses keep them from actually getting together. But then of course they realize it…and even without the funny, awkward, hook up and then regret it scene like the one from When Harry Met Sally. They don’t even have the funny meet-cute we get from Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal with the carpool. There is no equivalent scene to Meg Ryan imitating the sounds of an orgasm in a diner. And to compare the boring banter in this book to that of the witty conversations written by the amazing Nora Ephron is really insulting.

The characters are pretty generic white, middle class, teens, and the supporting cast barely functions as plot devices, let alone being interesting and compelling on their own. Though Macallan lost her mom and Levi has to move to a new town and is self-conscious about his popularity, there is no real deep conflict here.

I didn’t like this book, and was only able to finish it because it was short and the only book I happened to have with me at the time. That is not to say I don’t think it’s worth recommending to the right reader. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute. It’s just also very superficial.

Recommended for fans of: I’m a little out of my element here, because I haven’t read a lot of other of this type of cutesy romantic comedy. This is where RA can get pretty tricky. I’d say off the top of my head that this might work for fans of Susane Colosanti or Sarah Dessen, but I haven’t read any of either of those authors works. I just checked out Anna and the French Kiss which is beloved by so many, and perhaps I won’t actually like it if it’s as cutesy as this. We shall see. It’s nice to know that this is completely, 100% clean–no swearing, no drinking or drugs, no mention of sex–because sometimes that is a specific request, and I tend to gravitate towards more edgy or gritty contemporary YA for my own personal reading.

Second opinions:

Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict: “So, in Better Off Friends you know that Macallan and Levi belong together, but you aren’t sure how they get to that happy ending. At the end of each chapter, Eulberg provides readers with some present day witty banter between Levi and Macallan which clues the readers into that inevitable happy ending you were hoping for. I absolutely loved this and it reminded me of When Harry Met Sally and how the interviews of various couples (including Harry and Sally) framed the flashbacks and story lines of the movie.  Eulberg employed that same concept and it was perfect. Plus, each chapter alternated between Levi and Macallan’s perspective and this was also very well done.”

As Told by Rachel: “Yeah, there’s moments of tension and times when you think Levi and Macallan are never going to talk again, but I just felt like the emotional connection that I’m looking for wasn’t there.  That being said, most contemporary fans will like this one. It’s a quick read, charming, and OH MY GOSH Levi and Macallan are the cutest.”

Gillian at Writer of Wrongs: “This book is so adorable it will make your teeth ache and brighten even the most rotten of moods. I read it nearly straight through on a cross-continental plane ride, and it certainly made for a pleasant and entertaining trip. This book won’t end up being very memorable to me, though, and that’s because it doesn’t quite go deep enough. It doesn’t dig into the characters the way I like, nor does it have much of an overarching plot besides, “Let’s watch these really cute people who are obviously meant to be finally come to be.” And trust me, that’s one of my most favorite plots out there, but Better Off Friends certainly suffers from a few problems. And yet it’s really cute. LIke really, really, really cute. And it made me happy.”

Anna Reads: “It’s short and sweet and the writing reflects that. I found myself wishing for some more depth in Levi’s point-of-view sections and a little more complexity and more of an emotional twinge in the writing…but that being said, I really wanted to pick up the book again whenever I put it down. So it pulled me in regardless.”

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

  1. Awww I’m sorry didn’t like this one! I thought it was cute, but it definitely does appeal to a younger audience for sure. I had a lot of fun with it but I think it didn’t quite have the depth that many more YA books do. I’ve enjoyed Eulberg’s past two books because they’re just light and fun and clean — like Estelle said, they really kind of cleanse my palette! I think I enjoyed this one because I could just see myself in Macallan and I related to this situation a lot from when I was in junior high and high school.
    Great thoughts on this! It’s very interesting to hear the other side of it!

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. For some reason this author just doesn’t go the distance with her books when I believe she has all the tools to do so. There is so much more I would have liked in this book, but I did really care about the characters and found myself thinking about them a lot. It was the sort of book that I cleanse my reading palette with but not one that I’ll be buying for all of my friends. (Except the design of the book is so pretty. Ugh. haha) … have you ever read Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy? I thought that book tackled this theme so much better.

  3. It’s not my cup of tea, but it could be something that my kiddos might like in a couple of years. “Levi” seems to be a popular name in fiction these days. It’s not a name I come across much in real life.

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