February 21, 2014
Review: Better off Friends + an Interview with Elizabeth Eulberg
Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Release date: February 25, 2014
This ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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?
The Good and the Bad: I'm not sure I can easily put my feelings about Better off Friends into words (and I'm writing this only minutes after finishing this book). It's beautiful, cute, and utterly lovable.
I adored all the little references to Midwestern/Wisconsin things: Packers vs. Bears (sorry, Elizabeth, but go, Bears!), Culver's and its ButterBurgers and frozen custard, Door County, the cold, and Friday night fish fries. When Macallan and Levi reference Kelly Clarkson songs, I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe. This book made me smile and tear up. Macallan's story isn't the happiest. She misses her mom so much, and I really felt her grief and longing. It was sweet how Levi's mom sort of filled that role for Macallan. Sure, she had female friends, but she really needed a mother figure to help her mature into a wonderful young woman. I doubt Macallan would've turned out so well if she'd hadn't had Mrs. Rodgers. Mr. Dietz, Uncle Adam, Danielle, Liam, and obviously Levi were other stand-out characters.
The book starts off when Levi and Macallan are in 7th grade, and I really liked how we saw them subtly grow up. Two of the best scenes were when Macallan first stood up for a Culver's employee who had Down's syndrome, and then later stood up for her uncle (who has a developmental disability). I also liked Macallan and Levi's banter. It was interesting (and good) how Macallan and Emily's friendship ended. Macallan stood up for what was right after she had gone against her conscience, and while it cost her one friend, she kept Levi and Danielle. Another note: I feel like whenever friendships win, no one ever seems to side with the protagonist. It was great to see Danielle stick by Macallan's side.
Finally, the ending. It was beautiful, y'all, just beautiful.
I ship Levi and Macallan so hard. They're best friends and everyone thinks they're more. It's how it should be when a guy and girl's close friendship leads to more.
One of the few things I disliked was how much Levi and Macallan's POVs switched in the last chapter. Towards the very end, it works perfectly, but otherwise, it bothered me. Also, Levi's characterization was a bit weak at moments.
The Ugly: Very little. Romance is clean, language is mild, and violence is nonexistent.
The Verdict: READ THIS BOOK. Elizabeth's writing keeps getting better and better, and with how phenomenal this book is, I cannot wait for The Lonely Hearts Club sequel next year.
And...best of all...here's a little treat for all of you. I asked Elizabeth a few questions, and here's what she said!
Emma: What inspired you to set Better off Friends in Wisconsin, and what was the best research you had to do for the setting?
Elizabeth: When I set out to write Better off Friends, I wasn't originally going to set it in Wisconsin (where I'm from). Then when I realized I needed a setting, I decided to finally set a book in Wisconsin. From there, Wisconsin became its own character.
When I was home for a family reunion, I told my parents we had very important research to do: go to Culver's and to a restaurant for a Friday night fish fry. My dad's response: "We love your job." I made sure to take pictures and write notes as I stuffed my face!
Emma: Macallan's name is very unusual (but awesome). Is there a specific reason you chose it, or did you just like it?
Elizabeth: I was at a signing a couple years ago, and a girl came up to me with the name Macallan. I paused for a second, then said to her, "That's a really unusual name; do you mind if I use it in a book?" I took the post-it note with her name and decided to use it for Better off Friends. I saw her a year later and was thrilled to be able to tell her. She's read it and has approved of her namesake - phew!
Emma: Any favorite YA reads you'd like to share?
Elizabeth: There are so many awesome books coming out this spring! Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski, Only Everything by Kieran Scott, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith... I could go on and on! It's going to be a fabulous spring for readers!
Emma: Favorite flavor of Culver's custard?
Elizabeth: Not surprisingly, Macallan and I have the same favorite: turtle sundae. When I was driving with my mom one day when I was home, I saw that it was the flavor of the day. I nearly got into an accident turning the car into the parking lot! I was so excited!
Emma: I ask everyone this question: what's your favorite fairytale?
Elizabeth: Cinderella - I think every girl fantasizes about that fairytale whenever they're going through a hard time...or doing chores!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth!