Monday, June 29, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

* * * 1/2

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.

Emmy & Oliver starts with Emmy’s recollection of the last time she saw Oliver when they were seven years-old. That day and the events leading up to his disappearance have stayed with her since. Though she and her friends moved on, she still remembers him, holding out hope that her childhood best friend and neighbor will reappear someday.

That someday arrives ten years later. They’re 17 now and so much has happened in between. Oliver’s return is extremely awkward for everyone. His family wants him to have space and time to adjust leaving Emmy to wonder if he’s the same boy she remembers. Oliver’s readjustment to his home and school are not easy but somehow Emmy is able to reach him and they begin to reconnect. He confides in her that he’s feeling overwhelmed and trapped by his mother’s expectations. Apparently they have that in common because she feels confined by her mother’s overprotectiveness.

The story deals with a number of things. First we have Emmy seeking more independence and space from her well-meaning but overprotective mom. She doesn’t even know that her daughter loves surfing and wants to surf for a college team. Despite that, Emmy is a bright young woman with a good head on her shoulders. She understands where all the worry stems from. Then there’s a very solemn Oliver who’s painfully assimilating into life with his mom and her new family. He’s trying so hard to keep everyone happy without causing too much disruption. Everyone is expecting him to be ecstatic about being saved and to automatically fit into this new life. But the truth is that he has mixed feelings about his dad and what he did. When he reveals his dilemma to Emmy it’s one of the most genuine moments in the book. It’s a perspective that would never have occurred to me and was handled very sweetly. 

I couldn't help picturing Emmy and Oliver as little kids, innocent and carefree because that's what I wanted to return to. And I see that I pictured them the way this little community continued to see Oliver even upon his return – as a child. Child abduction is horrifying and his disappearance had reverberating effects. His return should have been a veryhappy reunion for the family signaling a return to life as normal before the bad stuff happened. The truth is, it's awkward and hard. Everyone has changed and they all need to make room and adjust. Oliver’s fragility in all of this broke my heart into little pieces. But things have a way of righting themselves and Emmy & Oliver delivers on that in its own way.

~ Bel

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