Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway
Release Date: June 23rd 2015
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
Genre: Fiction / YA / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her
parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her
grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.
thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew
that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run.
Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at
once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.
Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before
their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and
time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their
story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces
of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Emmy & Oliver is a book that I really enjoyed. It was meaningful, with thoughtful characters, and situations that didn't scream 'drama' at you all of the time. I really felt like I understood the problems and the situations these characters were faced with on a regular basis, and emphasized with their many trials and their daily ups and downs.
First of all, let me say right off the bat that I have no experience whatsoever with anyone having been kidnapped, although I have had experience dealing with situations where children have been taken from their parents for various reasons, or there are court orders against one parent or other family member for whatever reason. This is the place where I put myself while I was reading this novel and trying to understand Oliver's emotional state upon his return to his mom and discovering he has a step-dad and half-sisters, as well as discovering his whole life had been a lie. This is where I really feel Oliver's point of view may have enriched the story quite a bit as we had no idea what he was really thinking or feeling most of the time and I would have liked to have known. I just can't imagine the struggle he was going through trying to make sense of it all.
What I really liked about this novel is how normal everything felt: the characters did normal things like sneak out to parties and drink, hang out at the beach, worry about SATs and college applications, nag each other about their social lives, text all day long and get into trouble over it, break curfew and get grounded, eat burritos, and so on. Everything felt so grounded, so normal. Even the dialogue was interesting as the characters teased each other, without using big words the general population has to look up in a dictionary. I just thought it capture the ambiance of the world in such a way that it made everyone seem so normal, and when the drama did appear, it was just typical teenager stuff that wasn't overly dramatic.
There were several themes however, that did run through this novel and were quite deceptive in their simplicity. Family, friendship, honesty, growing up, and fear, although I was the most interested in the fear aspect and how it could really affect parents and the relationship parents develop with their children. Having a seven-year-old disappear is bound to affect everyone in a town, but to those who were especially close to Oliver, it certainly reverberated through the years with tighter control over the children and very strict curfews. Emmy especially felt bound by rules she began to think were strangling her as she was finishing her last year of high school, and as a result, began doing things secretly behind her parents' backs, causing her to lie and cheat. While I liked the result that happened, I thought the denouement behind it was too neatly wrapped up after years of strict control and I couldn't see it happening so quickly or so easily.
Emmy & Oliver is a great read for those looking for something contemporary without a lot of drama, but with a lot of heart and emotion. It's a very duplicitous novel as there are many layers within it, and many themes are explored. I adored the romance as there is no insta-love in this one, but develops slowly and romantically, with both of them supporting each other as they go through their various 'bumps' in the road. The writing style is very lyrical and interesting, and draws you right into the events and into the lives of the characters. I recommend this one to anyone who likes contemporary fiction that is not heavy on drama, but adores a happy ending for all.