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BOOK REVIEW – Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

BOOK REVIEW – Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

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?


All in all, here’s an heartfelt story about family, friendship and what it means to belong somewhere, to grow up, without never hiding the hard truths and sore trials real life holds.

What is it that creates a family? A friendship? Are labels enough? Does calling someone a friend makes one?

“I looked up at my dad. “Tonight, when Oliver and I were talking, I said I’d still love you, even if you kidnapped me. I really would. I get how he feels.”
My dad smiled. “That’s the nicest and most sociopathic thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Emmy & Oliver isn’t my first book by Robin Benway, therefore it doesn’t come as a surprise that her writing flows smoothly and hides several funny and thoughtful gems, making it really quotable, to put it simply. If the snarky monologues I adored in Also Known As are more discreet here, it remains that the characters’ interactions shared the smile-inducing quality that made me fall for her writing in the first place.

One might say that nothing really happens, but for me it can’t be seen as a flaw here : indeed it’s in the quietness that lie the most powerful scenes, don’t you think? Whose lives revolve around blowing things off and apocalyptic worlds, huh? To capture the essence of real life, sometimes we need to slow down, and in my opinion Robin Benway did it perfectly, even if I admit, it took quite a while for the story to completely hook me. Who cares, when in the end I’m smiling big and treasuring every moment I spent reading?

As for the characters, I can’t genuinely find a single one I didn’t like or understood, one way or another. They all show weaknesses without never crossing the line between what I can understand and what I find annoying.

Shaken to the core after Oliver’s kidnapping when he was 7 years old, they all had to find ways to cope, whether in being overprotective like Emmy’s parents or in creating a whole hidden life as Emmy did. All of them, while flawed, stay so supportive, realistic and heartwarming that I want to hug the hell out of them. Really. With a special mention for Emmy’s dad (thanks for the hooking up line, buddy) and her best-friend Drew (your driving skills didn’t go unnoticed, and I’m totally stealing your ‘The signs says STOP! Not GIVE UP!’ cry).

We recognize a great book when none of the characters is useless : family stands out in their lives (as it should be the case way more often in Young Adult), friends are well-developed characters (and don’t act as if they want to shred each others in pieces for once, thank you very much), boyfriends are supportive, kind, without any of the abusive and invasive traits that make me so, so angry. Not to mention that if romance there is, it stays light, slow, devoid of all this instalove crap authors love to feed us these days (or, to be fair, for ever – Romeo & Juliet, anyone?)

Life is messed-up and complicated, and I love nothing more than leaving a book without knowing how I would have reacted. This is what being a complex human is about, I guess, and I’m never denying that part of me, whatever that means.

If you’re looking for a realistic, heartwarming coming of age story, don’t be fooled by that misleading cover and try it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Ps. THAT FUCKING ACOUSTIC GUITAR. GUYS. I know right??!

*high-fives Drew & Caro*

BOOK REVIEW: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

BOOK REVIEW: Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

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?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

 

I guess the more you start to love someone, the more you ache when they’re gone, and maybe it’s that middle ground that hurts the most, when you can see them and still not feel like you’re near enough. So close and yet so far.

Absolutely too cute for words. Deep, heartfelt, unforgettable.


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Sometimes I could slap myself for being so shortsighted. And, just to warn you, I’ll probably even say that on tomorrow’s review….I just have this mental block that prevents me from taking a risk, taking chances that might help me find some of the best stories ever-and this is one I almost missed out on.


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It’s pretty clear I poach all my ideas off Anna (well, 90% of them) and generally come out on top. I can tout and say it’s because I’m picky…well, hey, I really am…but a lot of my choices wouldn’t even exist without Anna saying, hey, check this one out. So, you know, this is my way of saying that, while I say I’m creative…I’m really not. And this book?? It was absolute perfection.
Sometimes there just aren’t enough words to fill the crack in your heart.


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When I read the blurb for this, I passed it up multiple times I guess I didn’t realize just how…difficult??…a story like this could be. It seemed simple enough-Boy gets taken by his father. Mother is devastated. Emmy and her friends are scarred for life, always waiting for him to return. Boy returns when he’s 17. Emmy and Oliver fall in love. Simple…right? Wrong.
Oliver looked up at me, his face solemn and pained, and I realized with a terrible rush we weren’t playing anymore. “Colleen,” he said, “coming home feels like being kidnapped all over again.”

 

If you were a kid and everything you knew was flipped around, your world titled on its axis, how would you react? Well, we don’t technically know. He was gone, stolen away from all those he cherished and loved. One can assume that he was confused and missed his mother and friends, only to eventually fall into a rhythm with his dad and delve into to his new life. So…I guess this leaves you wondering-If you were stripped of your life, everything you knew-not just once, but twice-how would you fare?


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And then Oliver blinked again and it was like a shutter went off in his own eyes so I could see the picture of the anger, the hurt, the embarrassment. It was a private viewing just for me, gone a second later when he blinked once more and his face smoothed back into its normal, passive shape.

And I think that’s the largest issue in this book-Finding your place, struggling to wrap your head around new people, leaving all you know behind..it’s actually so sad when you think about it. And I think that’s why I was so shocked-and yes, I was very shocked by the depth of this book. Even from page one, which hooked me instantly by the way, it seemed light and funny and sweet. And, even with the darkness that creeped into the story sometimes, there was no lack of heartfelt moments and hilarious banter. And hey! There was some cheese, I’ll admit it. Wonderful, yummy, happy velveeta cheese-But only the best kind of cheese.
“Those look painful,” Oliver commented, trying to avoid Caro digging her heel into his shoulder. “Why does everything you do look like it hurts?”
“Because!” Caro huffed with a final shove. “You guys want us to look natural and there’s nothing natural about looking natural.”
I could see the confusion cross Oliver’s face and stifled my own smile.
“Those shoes don’t look natural,” Oliver pointed out.
“Yes, but they’re three-inch heels, which make me look like I’m an average height of five five. See?” She explained. “Natural.”

 

Okay!! My favorite part-The relationship. Emmy was devastated by the disappearance of Oliver. She might have even taken it harder than most even realized. They were partners in crime, best friends…in like with one another. You know how kids are 😛 . So when he comes back with more height, a different head of hair, a new look to him, and a dark cloud hanging over his head…she realizes he’s not the little boy that left all those years ago.

 

“Oh, riiiiight,” I said, knocking myself in the head and grinning like an idiot. “I’m sorry, I totally forgot.”
“That’s okay,” he replied. “Just adds to my rebel image. New guy in school, mysterious past, being held back a grade.” He smiled at me. “Girls like it.”
“Really?”
“Oh yeah.” He smiled wider. “That’s why I’m eating lunch with all these people.”
I laughed despite myself and then he laughed, too, a familiar sound that I hadn’t heard in years. His laugh was deeper now, but still Oliver’s, as unique as a double helix. Or a fingerprint.

 

Emmy starts to reach out to him, this kid who made national news and is now a social outcast because of it. Alone more often than not, he’s feeling angry, dejected, depressed that he is being thrown back into a life everyone remembers but him-all his old friends, the inside jokes, the memories they shared. But as Emmy begins to integrate him into her life, and her two best friends’ lives (they used to be a foursome), he starts to smile, laugh, joke, live…and he’s beginning to ache for the ten years they all lost.
“Quick question,” Oliver said as he scanned the horizon. “What is the shark population like around here?”
I blinked at him. “Are you being serious right now?”
“I don’t know.” He laughed nervously. “No. Yes. Maybe? Sharks?”
I sighed. “There are no sharks here.”
“Do you mean ‘here’ as in the ‘Pacific Ocean’ or…?”


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I loved this cast of characters. They were so funny and realistic and you never felt like the conversations were fake or forced for the sake of being ‘hip’. This author made an authentic story with real conversations and real situations. I never once rolled my eyes or thought it was trying too hard. The friendships, the drama, the fights…they were so palpable I wanted to reach out and swirl my hand in their tangible depths. And, even more than that, I wanted to hug my poor little Oliver, who always felt lost and alone.
Tortured, lost, devastated, Oliver has never felt more alone. As he and Emmy become closer, we begin to see his playful side, his happy side-but he never quite knows what to do. His mom searched for him for years, and now she has him…in her new life. He doesn’t know where he fits and feels like he’s disrupting her-and everyone else’s-life. We see the emotional turmoil he goes through trying to find his place…and trying to sort through his lingering emotions of missing his dad, even when he knows he did something horribly wrong.
That’s when I first learned about true frustration, that wrenching ache when the thing that matters most to you barely makes a ripple in other people’s lives.


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This story is one that took me completely by surprise. It’s not because I didn’t think it would be good-from page one you could tell it would be fabulous-but I didn’t realize just how many emotions I-or they-would feel. I started this book during a terrible week. And even at the worst of times, I’d pick this up and would immediately get butterflies, smile like a loon, and start laughing in the quiet of night-disturbing hubbs repeatedly. This book is wonderful, one to truly cherish and never forget. WHEN I get the hardback, I’m going to hug it close…and be all creepy and snuggle with it. Whoops. I only hope that others will give this fantastic book a chance. I swear it will make you feel as light as air.

*Note: I have to say something I missed on the review: Oliver was always supportive for Emmy…no matter what. And he never got mad at her. He was so adorable and supportive. Anyway. Forgot that. Whoops again.

BOOK REVIEW – Also Known As (Also Known As #1) by Robin Benway

BOOK REVIEW – Also Known As (Also Known As #1) by Robin BenwayAlso Known As (Also Known As #1)
by Robin Benway
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

Where are the teenagers? What, it seems that in contemporary YA, we often get this oh-so-delicious choice :

▧ Either teenagers sound like wiser than Yoda freaking Jedi : The Fault in Our Stars
Or like predators in the jungle : Every book with some devil cheerleader in it.

So, no, my question is genuine and I end asking this to myself pretty often : WHERE. THE. FUCK. ARE. THE. REAL. TEENAGERS?

Strangely, I had to read a story about SPIES to find teenagers who sound like fucking teenagers. Frankly, I don’t know what that says about the genre, but it can’t be positive, don’t you think? Anyway, it made this book so refreshing I just can’t rate it lower than 4 stars, even though then it’s quite… immature at times, because, surprise! Teenagers ARE immature like some adults, but that’s not the point here.

▓ What can you find in Also Known As? ▓

Hilarious dialogues : Indeed Also Known As is the kind of book you need to read alone, if you don’t want to sound super crazy with your giggles, let’s say. That’s definitely too late for me, I’m afraid. Nobody warned me! Damn!

“Are we sworn now?” he said, his eyes crinkled at the corners.
“Yes,” I said, and tugged on his finger for good measure. “It’s also possible that we’re now considered married in the country of New Guinea.”
We both cracked up at the same time. “Kidding!” I giggled. “Kidding! At least I think I am. Who knows?”
“Let’s Wikipedia that when we get home,” Jesse suggested.”

➋ Absolutely ♫ ♬ no dramaaaaa ♫ ♪

Bring the pop-corn, though.

“They were fighting over this clown? Now I had seen everything.
“Jake?” Julia said, crossing her arms and looking over at Stoner Boy. “Is it true? Who did you like better, babe?”
Babe? They were still together? Jake cheated on Julia and she took him back? If this were a TV show, I would have been recording every single episode on my DVR. “

No slut-shaming and other ridiculous stereotypes, as evil cheerleader, football-player manwhore, bitchy girl friend….

➍ Did I say cute? Yeah? The truth is, Jesse Oliver is one of the sweetest, cutest male lead I had the pleasure to meet. Seriously, while staying realistic and not over-the-top cheesy, the guy melted my heart with his insecurities and his kindness – he is a complete dork, yes, but oh so fucking fantastic. Not to mention his sparks of light humor I adore. Now, that’s the kind of guy who could date my baby sister with my whole approval (not that she needs it, obviously).

” (…) Are guys always like this?”
“Um. Kind of?”
I threw my hands into the air. “This is why the world’s a mess!” I yelled. “Because no one can just say what they want to say!”
“I think that’s a John Mayer song,” Jesse pointed out.”

A witty and kick-ass heroine, who takes her job as a spy safe cracker seriously, although she’s a teenager with, well, teenagers issues. What I found so endearing and realistic is the fact that she’s so clueless at the same time, especially concerning teenager stuff, being around her peers for the first time and all because no, the cute Islander guy doesn’t count, even if his imaginary conversations skills looked great.

“It was time for the mirror pep talk.
“Okay, Maggie,” I said to myself after my shower, wiping the steam off the medicine cabinet.
“You could eat these kids for breakfast. You won’t, though, because that would be cannibalistic and wrong.”

Icing on the cake, I never found her inner monologues annoying, and that’s saying something, right?

“You know how sometimes you realize you’re doing or saying the wrong thing, but you just can’t stop yourself? You can literally hear the words coming out of your mouth and you just want to shove them back in because the real you, the good you, would never want to be this way, but you just keep going? “

→ Oh YES do I know that >.<

Girl friendship : Now, I need to say it : I. LOVED. ROUX. This girl is just plain awesome. Forget the bitchy friends we find way too often, and meet this unapologetic girl who has a passion for French vine and never stops talking. Of course I can relate, duh.

“Seriously. Feathers. Why?”
“No clue.”
“I think I dreamed that I was the Black Swan. Oh my God, I need coffeeeeeeeee. If I don’t have coffee, I will shrivel up and die just like one of those little roly-poly bugs.” She paused. “There’s a feather in my mouth. Blechhh.”
“Roux,” I said, trying to bring her back to the present. “I need to talk to you.”
“Is this an intervention?”
“What? No. God, no.” I didn’t have that kind of time, for starters. “I just have some questions.”

➐ An adorable and swoon-worthy romance whose growth is believable. What I loved is the smile-inducing way this first love is portrayed, without all the awful angst we have to stand more often than not. Yes! Because! Love! Isn’t! Always! Angsty!

“It’s not going to be all good for Roux tomorrow,” I pointed out, “but wait. Why didn’t you say anything?”
Jesse shrugged and ran his hand through his hair in a way that was not adorable or charming. At all. “Well, um, you’re kind of intimidating?”
I was definitely intimidating, but not for any reason that Jesse Oliver would or should know about. “What do you mean?”
“Well, in class you’re always taking notes … and frowning?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“See?” Jesse protested. “You’re really argumentative, too.”

➑ And spies – I mean, SPIES! Who doesn’t like a spy story? Hmm. Wait – Who doesn’t like a spy story without a girl portrayed as a sex object?

Parents! I know, amazing right? The MC has parents who – wait for it – care about her and worry when she takes risky decisions. Moreover, their job as spies makes them hilariously off the wall and I can’t deny that their reactions cracked me up several times.

➓ A compelling writing, serving a fast-paced, never boring plot.

To sum up : Here’s a funny, drama free and adorable story. One might say it isn’t unforgettable, and yes, that’s true. But now, tell me, don’t you ever need to lighten your mood? Because I do, and it was the perfect book for it. In any case, I’d take this fluffy read over a manipulative drama on any day. I can be shallow like that.

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