Hi there! I’m anxious to share a contemporary YA romance a la When Harry Met Sally. I was enraptured by the movie–the tiny vignettes from the couples, the excitement of changed feelings–and pangs of obliviousness. So, naturally, I jumped into this book: BETTER OFF FRIENDS, newly released by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Better off FriendsAbout the book:

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 Review:
Macallan Dietz and Levi Rodgers are best friends. It’s not strange that Macallan’s a girl–and Levi’s a boy–because boys and girls CAN be friends. Right?

OMG. From the start I was sucked into the “When Harry Met Sally” back-and-forth of the prose. Brief, reflective vignettes preface each chapter, with the witty banter of Levi and Macallan harkening back to times of their greatest comradarie, and conflict.

Told in alternating point-of-view, we meet long-haired surfer Levi as a new student in a small Milwaukee junior high. Macallan’s a pretty, but withdrawn, girl–still bottling the grief of her mother’s death–called to serve as Levi’s guide. He’s so forlorn, sitting alone at lunch, that the reserved Macallan invites him to join her and her friends. See, both of them are a bit adrift, and they recognize that kindred sense of ‘not-fitting’ in each other.

Of course, the source of their not fitting is different; Macallan self-isolates seeking to be free of the pitying stares, while Levi craves to find his way in to the larger society. Despite these differences, they become friends. Macallan really craves family as she has no siblings and her house is so silent without her mother. Her dad tries hard, but he works a lot and her uncle is a minimal support, by virtue of his developmental delay. Levi relies on Macallan as a friend throughout seventh grade, but in eighth grade we get our first divergence: Emily, Macallan’s childhood BFF begins to find Levi attractive. And thus, the wedge is driven.

Sure, Levi and Macallan are still friendly, but there’s no balm to soothe ‘Third Wheel Syndrome”. Nor, is there a guide that helps these young teens deal with manipulating friends and cheaters…

Throughout all this, Levi and Macallan weather the conflict. In fact, it seems clear that they are ‘an item’ though they never date. Not in eighth grade, nor freshman year, or sophomore year either. They just have one of those friendships that is so solid they have all the inside jokes. And, they can finish each other’s sentences. So it’s natural that, when yet another of Levi’s romantic entanglements implodes, Macallan is right there to pick up the pieces. Only, this time, there’s something physical between them. A spark that Levi won’t deny, but Macallan never acknowledges.

And this eats Levi alive. So much so that he needs space to mend his bruised ego, and heart.

Of course, by the time he gets around to telling Macallan the truth of his feelings, she’s moving on. To Ireland. (For the summer…) It’s a long eight weeks of soul-searching for Macallan and she’s almost ready to open her heart to Levi, only, well…he got himself another girl.

Yeah. (I was crushed too, Macallan baby!)

Ugh. I wanted to just toss my iPad. Really.

Thankfully the Arctic Monkeys were there…

After absorbing the sage words of these lovely musicians, was able to forgive Levi and Macallan’s skittishness. I trudged forth and stayed the course, trusting that my heart, er, I mean Macallan’s heart, would recover. And, it sorta did. Not without a whole lotta clueless meandering–and at times downright nastiness–on Levi’s part. Still, when the call came that Levi needed her, Macallan was right there–to let the call slip to voicemail.

What? You didn’t think she’d just pine away for a jerk-face forever, did you?

Oh. But, she WAS the friend he needed, right when he needed her. And the end, as they say, was HEA.

Just. Loved. Swooned. The angst was churning in my gut from the get-go. It took me a tiny minute to figure out the two voices–mainly on those vignettes–but the characters were so lush. So vibrant. Macallan’s grief killed me. Levi’s overwhelming desire to fit in–it took me right back to high school. Recommend to all lovers of YA. It’s wholly innocent, so okay for those youngsters reading up. Not sure they’ll catch onto the WHMS theme, but it think the story will still resonate.

I requested this book for review via NetGalley. But you can find it on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Elizabeth EulbergAbout the author:
Elizabeth Eulberg was born and raised in Wisconsin before heading off to college at Syracuse University and making a career in the New York City book biz. Now a full-time writer, she is the author of The Lonely Hearts Club, Prom & Prejudice, Take a Bow, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, and Better Off Friends. She lives outside of Manhattan with her three guitars, two keyboards, and one drumstick.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for stopping by and keep reading my friends! 🙂

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