BOOK REVIEW – Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
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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.


*high-fives Drew & Caro*

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