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“But in truth, home isn’t necessarily where you sleep at night. It’s where you feel like yourself. Where you’re most comfortable. Where you don’t have to pretend, where you can be just you,” Levi. –Better Off Friends
Better Off Friends
by Elizabeth Eulberg
When Levi moves to town, Macallan becomes his best friend. Everyone thinks that guys and girls can’t just be friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share inside jokes, their families are close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are content being just friends.
But no one believes that they are just friends. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi. On the other hand, Levi goes through a string of girlfriends, who each think he spends too much time with Macallan. Basically, when it comes to dating, Levi and Macallan keep getting in each other’s way. With everyone thinking the two are more than friends, and they begin to wonder if they really can be just friends or if they should be more.
Better Off Friends alternates between Levi’s and Macallan’s point of view. In addition, the end of each chapter has a short conversation between the two, which allows them to reflect on their past. Levi is portrayed as a selfish, stereotypical Californian. For example, he wonders, “Why couldn’t we have stayed in Santa Monica, where the weather was sweet and the waves were sick?” Even though the book is told from both of the character’s points of view, both Levi and Macallan are forgettable characters.
Macallan is more well-developed character than Levi. Her mother’s recent death has shattered her family, she tries to stay out of Levi’s love life, and she stands up for two characters with disabilities. Despite this, she is not a memorable character. Unfortunately, too much of the story focuses on Macallan and Levi’s internal struggle as they try to hide their true feelings from each other. Even after the two realize they are in love with the other, their refusal to openly talk about their feelings becomes tedious.
Instead of being a fun romance, Better Off Friends has a predictable plot, forgettable characters, and a cliché conclusion. The main characters spend too much time trying to prove that they are just friends, and predictably fall in love with each other. Unfortunately, none of the characters are unique and readers will quickly forget the story. With a plethora of teen romances crowding the shelves, readers should reach for a truly unique and memorable romance such as I Believe in A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo or Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson.
- Macallan and an unknown person have a short conversation. The unknown person wants to know if Macallan “hooked up at some point.”
- While on a date with Emily, Levi “wanted to kiss her. . .So I kissed her. And she kissed me back.”
- Macallan went to the movies with Levi and Emily. She went to get popcorn and came back “only to discover them kissing (or, more accurately sucking face).”
- At a party, Macallan walked into her bedroom to find “Emily and Troy were kissing on my bed.” Emily asks Macallan not to tell her boyfriend that she was kissing another boy.
- After Levi gets back from a trip, Emily “ran out in the cold and kissed me, which helped warm me considerably.”
- Emily lies to Levi, telling him that “nothing happened” between her and Troy. As she tells him, Emily “started rubbing my leg. . .She started to kiss me.”
- Levi says, “My first girlfriend . . . started sucking face with some other guy the second she was alone with him. Tonight my girlfriend was away from me for like two seconds and she was going to make out with another guy. It clearly has to be me.”
- When Levi thinks something is wrong with him, Macallan “grabbed his cheeks and pulled him in for a kiss. He was tense, probably from shock, for the first couple of seconds. Then his arms were around me and he eased into it.” Macallan tells him, “You are not a bad kisser. It has been verified. Moving on.”
- When Levi wasn’t paying attention, Macallan’s friend Danielle says, “Macallan and I were going to have a lingerie pillow fight.” Levi thinks, “I desperately tried to get the thought of Macallan and Danielle in lingerie out of my mind. I sometimes thought Macallan forgot I was a guy. And we have certain responses that are difficult to control.”
- Levi begins dating Stacy and they kiss twice. For example, when Levi picked her up for a date, “he bent over and gave [her] a kiss.”
- Macallan and Levi kiss. Levi “relished her lips on mine. Her hands gently ran through my hair.”
- A boy named Keith makes fun of Macallan’s uncle. Keith “bent his arms up toward his collarbone and let his wrist go limp so his hands were dangling. He collapsed his legs together at the knees and started to walk like he had a disability.” Then Keith says, “Just because your mom’s dead doesn’t mean you can be such a bitch.” Angry, Macallan “tightened up my fist and hit him right in the kisser. Keith, Mr. Athlete Extraordinaire, was knocked onto his butt.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Macallan has a unique name because her “dad liked a certain kind of Scotch Whiskey.”
- Macallan, her father, Levi, and his parents have dinner. Levi’s parents bring a bottle of wine.
- When Macallan’s boyfriend broke up with her, she asked, “Have you been drinking?”
- When Macallan goes to Ireland, one of her friends takes her to a party and offers her alcohol. When she declines, her friend says, “You Americans are so uptight about alcohol.”
- When Levi is injured, he takes “some serious painkillers.”
- Several times during the story, a handicapped person is called a retard or retarded. This includes Macallan’s uncle. Macallan stands up for to person and defends her uncle.
- Levi refers to himself as an idiot eight times. For example, he thinks, “Macallan stood up to those three guys while I stood there like an idiot.” He also says that he’s been “a total idiot lately.”
- Crap is used six times. For example, Macallan says, “I wasn’t in the mood for his crap today.”
- Levi says, “I’m sorry. I was being a grade-A jerk.” Later someone else calls Levi a jerk.
- “God” and “Oh my God” are both used as an exclamation once.
- Someone calls Macallan a bitch.