Book Reviews

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

17228280[1]“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?” ~ Goodreads

Will be released on February 25th, 2014

What a perfect YA book to review for Valentine’s Day! It reminds me of When Harry Met Sally but for young adults. And who didn’t enjoy that movie about a close friendship between a man and woman? Each chapter is from either Levi’s or Macallan’s point of view ending with them reminiscing about that point in their friendship (something like the scenes on the sofa from When Harry Met Sally). Their banter, dialogue and inner voice really felt authentic and speaks volumes in Eulberg’s writing for YA.

What I really liked about this story was the appropriateness for the entire YA audience. I was talking recently to a friend and discussing the YA genre. Most of the women my age have children approaching 11 and 12 and are delving into the YA genre in literature. But YA is labeled as being for readers between the ages of 12-18. That’s a huge gap in development. Many of my parent friends do not know which books to recommend to their budding YA reader that refrain from introducing the topics of drugs, sex, alcohol, violence, profanity, etc. Topics that are unavoidable and part of life but maybe their children are just not ready as maybe a 16, 17 or 18 year old would be. I read a lot of YA because I truly enjoy the genre. Going back to that time in my life where innocence was dwindling and learning more about the world (and boys) is enjoyable to me as a reader. But I know my daughter, who loves to read, is not ready for topics that are heavier. She has tried to get into The Hunger Games (which I loved), Divergent, etc. but can’t wrap her brain around teens killing teens. She’s just not there yet. It won’t hold her attention. And I am not ready for my 11 year old to be schooled in sex, drugs and alcohol via a book that might portray it in a darker manner. Better Off Friends is suitable for your budding tween on up.

(As a side note…Levi. That name for the male MC has been popping up all over and each Levi I have read in fiction is just the most well rounded male character. A perfect book boyfriend. Too bad I don’t plan on having any more kids because right now I would be naming a son Levi! Maybe I need to adopt another pet. Hmm…Okay rant over.)

The approach to have Levi and Macallan’s story span from 7th grade through high school was carried out seamlessly. There were no gaps in the story and it felt like a natural development as they became older and wiser in their youth. Anyone who had a close friend of the opposite sex at that stage in their lives will relate to the ups and downs of that kind of complicated friendship. I had several boy “friends” from middle school through high school (the same ones) and was always getting razzed by others about “being more than friends”. And then when you actually started to date someone, that friend did get jealous because now someone else was there to spend time with, create inside jokes with, swoon over. A very complicated dance that Eulberg executed with heart and humor.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastic for an advance, uncorrected reader’s proof. I was not compensated or required to review this book.

To learn more about the wonderful and talented Elizabeth Eulberg, her books and events please visit her site here. I do know that she will be in the Chicagoland area for a book signing at the end of this month.

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