Thursday, March 6, 2014

Better Off Friends

The descriptor for Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg is: Harry Met Sally for Teens. This is a perfect description exactly. I love a good friends to love story and enjoyed reading this one immensely. 

(This is a review of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.)

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?

Better Off Friends is a short quick read. The story spans quite a time period though, beginning when Macallan and Levi first meet in 7th grade and moving through two thirds of their junior year. It is told in first person alternating perspectives. At the close of each chapter there is a short conversation between the two (from sometime after the story takes place) where they comment on the story and their younger selves. This aspect was a tad annoying for me personally, as I didn't really see the need for it and didn't feel it helped move the story much. The dual perspectives, not something that always works for me, did work well for the purposes of the story being told. It was fun getting thoughts and details from both Macallan and Levi, and Eulberg did a good job with both their individual voices. I appreciated how realistically young both of them sounded and how they grew up quite a bit, but not entirely, by the end. It fit the time period covered in the story perfectly. Macallan is a quiet, serious girl who enjoys school and loves to cook. Levi is more laid back about school and being part of a sport's team. They bond over an obscure British TV show they both know and love, and soon they share more with each other than they thought possible at first. 

While I enjoyed the alternating perspectives, the past tense explanatory format didn't always work as well. The past tense was essential, but there was a lot of rehashing and sometimes some major info dumps. I can see why that was necessary given the nature of the story, but it caused me to not be drawn into it as fully as I otherwise might have been. I did thoroughly enjoy the  plot itself though. As I said, I enjoy best friend to love stories and this is a lovely one. There were some scenarios that could have been avoided if they had talked more, but it was all so very realistic. Most teens wouldn't do much better navigating these scenarios, and there was no over-dramatic ridiculously eye-roll inducing scenarios.

This is a book I wouldn't hesitate to give to any of my teen readers. There is some kissing, but nothing more than that so it will also work for older MG readers looking for a little bit more romance in their books.

I read an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic, at ALA Midwinter. Better Off Friends is available now. 

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