Elizabeth Eulberg is the author of four previous contemporary YA titles, and I’ve had her on my radar since I read Revenge of the Girl With a Great Personality (a super funny and actually sweet YA behind the scenes of children’s beauty pageants and the families of the girls who compete).
Eulberg has an ability to tell a great story full of poignant, really valuable moments that also make you laugh out loud. When I saw she had a new book coming out, I knew I had to read it… especially when I saw it compared to When Harry Met Sally! I mean, come on. Who can resist that?
In Better Off Friends, we get to follow the friendship of Macallan, an eighth grade girl dealing with the still-recent death of her mom, and Levi, an eighth grade boy transplanted from California to Wisconsin. When Macallan is given the task of showing Levi around on their first day of school, she mostly just barely tolerates him until they realize they both love the same quirky British TV show. From there, Levi and Macallan become good friends over the course of the school year.
When high school hits, everybody thinks they’re dating, but they’re still just friends… best friends. The banter between the two of them, and the way they retreat into their own world throughout various situations in the book, is just nothing short of magical in quality. In addition to the alternating point of view between Levi and Macallan as they go back and tell their story, there are also snippets of their present day conversations in between chapters. Eulberg has written a couple of characters here that I would honestly want to hang out with if they were real; they are full of life and so much fun.
The book spans over about four and a half years, which seemed at first like it was moving too quickly, glossing over important things, but by the time I finished I realized the pacing had been perfect – watching Levi and Macallan basically grow up together over those years made the experience even more enjoyable.
Another great thing about Eulberg, and particularly Better Off Friends, is that she tells great stories for a range of YA audiences without profanity or glorified drinking/drug use and sexual situations. This book could be enjoyed by 7th and 8th graders looking forward to good, healthy friendships (and romance) in high school, high school students in the thick of it, college/early career readers reflecting on high school relationships, and moms hoping their kids have people like these in their lives as they navigate young adulthood.