Review Detail

Better Off Friends FeaturedHot
Young Adult Fiction 5357
A Cute YA w/ MG Appeal
(Updated: February 21, 2016)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
A sweet and upbeat contemporary with light romantic comedy elements—one that bridges the maturity span between Middle Grade and Young Adult.

Levi starts out as a forlorn California transplant, struggling with Wisconsin’s climate and trying to fit in with the sports-obsessed guys at his new school. And Macallan is a responsible and pragmatic Midwesterner; having grown up too fast after her mother was killed in a car accident. Their unlikely connection begins when they discover they share a mutual love for an obscure British comedy, and steadily grows into a comfortable connectivity neither of them wants to live without.

The story is told from a dual POV, alternating between Macallan and Levi. (And here I have to commend the creativity; as the POV for each is marked not by the character’s name, but by a black and white image taken from a portion of the cover and placed at the start of each chapter.) Each chapter concludes with what appears to be a current dialogue between the two MCs, as they both reflect on the events of said chapter. (While this does soften an already low tension telling, it is also a unique way to augment the storytelling.) Eulberg’s prose is pleasantly readable, with vocabulary that struck out believably ahead of her character’s maturity levels. And the organic inserting of Irish/British terms added a fresh burst of flavor and culture I rarely find in this genre.

As readers will already guess from the title and blurb, the book does nothing to counter the prevailing perception that guys and girls can't be just friends. Still, the point seems to be more geared at the status of BEST friends; as it implies a level of mental intimacy that combines poorly with hormones. The ending is as predictable as you’d expect, but also as satisfying.

This reader appreciated the friendship vs. relationship conundrum for the most part. From early on its shown that Macallan connects with Levi and his parents on an adoptive familial level—particularly attaching to his mother as a sort of surrogate when the woman ends up being present and invested in events her own mother wasn’t alive to help her through. Their parents even become good friends. So it isn’t surprising that Macallan would be the most reserved over the idea of ANY changes to their unique dynamic—never mind the threat of causing undue tension and awkwardness between their families. She has the most to lose. On the downside, some readers may find Macallan frustratingly slow to know herself and make a decision.

Levi is sometimes a bit unconvincing as a male character—as his emotional state often more volatile than the heroine. (Granted the book spans ages 13-16, and that’s a shaky timeframe for most guys of the more sensitive persuasion.) Melodrama abounds as the two use casual dating (at the detriment of everyone around them) to distract from their conflicted feelings. In this respect, the pacing bogs down about the middle. But those desiring more of a mild soap opera feel may enjoy going around the same plot mountain a few times.

A solid recommendation for fans of the best-friends-turned-lovers trope and/or anyone looking to get off the insta-love bandwagon.
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