Publishing Date: June 23
Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She 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. He’d 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.
Emmy and 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’s life has always been in relation to Oliver. It began when they were friends, and then it took a terrible turn when he was kidnapped. Emmy understands why her parents have such strict rules, but it means she has to lie to them about surfing and applying to UCSD — and she doesn’t like doing that to them. But when Oliver returns home, she realizes just how much everyone focused on wanting him back but not the after. And Oliver finds a friend in Emmy, a healer to combine his childhood, his disappearance, and his reappearance together, without judgement or stress. But how will he come to terms with understanding the man who raised him was also the man who committed a crime?
This is unique in topic, and I think that’s why I enjoyed this so much. While there are books on Stockholm Syndrome, that’s not exactly what happened to Oliver. He was 7 when his father picked him up from school for a three-day weekend, and then he never returned. His father, a man he already loved and saw as an authority figure, then raised him and taught him everything he knew. But when Oliver discovers his mother was looking for him all this time, he decides to go back to California and live with her and new family — and that’s when it really hits him that his father is a criminal. To everyone in town, Oliver’s dad is a monster. But to Oliver, his dad is his dad. That’s a tough situation right there — toss in the fact his father said, all the way back when Oliver was 7, that his mother didn’t want him anymore, and you’ve got 10 years of resentment and longing built up.
While the story is told in Emmy’s point of view, I couldn’t help but look forward to Oliver’s shattering facade moments. The moments when he’d break down a bit more and reveal how he felt and what happened all those years. I wanted to hear what he had to say, to try to put myself in his shoes — and let me tell you, it was an emotional wreck for such a good guy. He does the best he can to be as normal as possible, to look to the future and see the positive in everything. He’s so dimensional and really stuck with me.
That’s not to say Emmy’s voice wasn’t memorable. She’s the first teen protagonist I’ve seen in a while that’s a good girl but not a doormat. She actually speaks her mind when she gets frustrated with her parents. They’re (understandably) protective, and all it takes is a letter from UCSD for them to see the extent of the damage panicked decisions can do.
Emmy and her friends Caro and Drew were a riot. I loved them. They were easy-going and fun and supportive, and absolutely adored their humor and back-and-forth attitude. Even in the moments when they had rough patches, it felt genuine and true to life. Nothing is hunky-dory in their world, and they certainly have their own home lives to deal with, but they make the most of it. Oliver always belonged with them — and of all the emotional stories, it was their open arms bringing him back into the fold that made me tear up.
If you love the friendship stories of Emery Lord, the family stories of Sarah Dessen, the psychological undertone of Lucy Christopher, and coming-of-age of Morgan Matson, you’ve got to read this book.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from HarperTeen for review!
8 thoughts on “Book Review: “Emmy & Oliver” by Robin Benway (ARC)”
Wonderful review. I read the entire thing, nodding my head right along to everything you said. I agree with it all completely. I loved getting Oliver’s story and I enjoyed Emmy and her friends so much. This was a book that I was expecting one thing and got something so much better instead.
Refreshing when that happens.
Alexa S. (@alexalovesbooks)
I adored Emmy & Oliver! I think Benway manages to accurately capture Emmy’s experience, as well as Oliver’s, in this story. Her characters, as always, leaped off the page and into my heart, with my particular fondness for both titular characters being undeniable. It’s such a great contemporary YA, and I’m thrilled you enjoyed it!
I agree. I’m sure if the story were written through Oliver’s POV, though interesting and probably infinitely more complex, it wouldn’t have had the same impact it’ll have on readers as Emmy’s side. We are more likely to relate to Emmy’s love and loss and fear and reunion.
Grace @ She Reads Things
Great review! I absolutely can’t wait to read this one. I love great book friendships, and I also love strong characters and unique plot lines, so this is one I will be reading for sure!
Oh, this is right up your alley!! Definitely grab a copy on Tuesday! Would love to hear your thoughts too.
Emmy & Oliver is another book on my TBR… I wish summer was longer so I could fit in all the contemporary YA novels that I have!
Right?! (I’m about to hop over and talk on your contemp YA summer reading post.) So many great books, so little time.