Macallan and Levi have been friends for practically forever. Even though everyone claims that a guy and a girl can’t be just friends, these two are out to prove them wrong. They are just friends, and they share practically everything. But their close friendship means that they keep tripping the other one up when it comes to matters of the heart. So are they better of as friends, or are they destined to be together?
Hailed as an homage to the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, everything about this gimmicky, treacly-sweet novel doesn’t quite hit the mark. Although there’s plenty of squeaky-clean romance to be found here (parents who want their teens reading the most filtered, scrubbed-sterile fiction will find a friend in this book) that might appeal to younger readers looking for a bubbly, predictable romance, there are better offerings out there. This one disappoints at every turn, starting with its tenuous-at-best connection to the smart, funny movie it takes its premise from.
Although it isn’t spelled out from the start, it’s clear early on that Macallan and Levi, who narrate the story in alternating chapters from both present and past, are going to end up together. So, spoiler alert: they aren’t better off friends. Because it’s so clear, so early on, that these two are going to eventually hook up, there’s no dramatic tension whatsoever to keep the story engaging. Unfortunately there isn’t any levity to any other parts of the novel to keep it fresh. Although a couple of more serious issues are touched on, they aren’t given any depth and therefore aren’t impactful.
The book’s issues are myriad, but one that rankled this reviewer was how clean the teens were when it came to pretty much everything, but especially language. There’s not any swearing in this one, making it helicopter-parent friendly but not very realistic. At one point, a teen says something about their “rear,” and it’s jarring. Not all readers will be bothered by this, and in fact some might find comfort in how gentle it is, but it doesn’t make for very resonant reading.
Disappointing, but sure to find an audience somewhere. Recommend this one to fans of Susane Colasanti and the like.
Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg. Scholastic/Point: 2014. Library copy.