Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy&OiverReview by Natalie Silva

Emmy & Oliver is something new, something fresh, something that really grabbed my interest on page one and maintained it until the final word. It still has a classic YA style romance that is adorable, awkward and something to root for, but branches out and explores a suburbia that has been devastated by the kidnapping of Oliver, leaving his friends, family and a whole neighborhood in panic mode for a decade. When he does finally return The town is supposed to be turned right-side up, but is actually turned upside down all over again, (but in a totally different direction), creating a massive ripple effect of how the presented characters combat and process finally getting what they have always dreamed of happening; seeing Oliver again. This causes strife, tears and a few start-overs filled with laughs and a few drunken slurs. With a cast of characters that are all just amazing and so relatable that a reader can get them confused with their actual friends.

There are about six central characters, but obviously Emmy & Oliver are the protagonists in this narrative. Emmy is a bouncy girl with a bit of a rebellious streak in her. Her big, sarcastic and compassionate personality is allowed to shine, which is pretty great. Her narration is spectacular making it easy to fall head over heels in love with her. Oliver is sort of a badass with a sarcastic drawl that perfectly complements Emmy’s tone. He is confused, frustrated, but honest and caring, making him one of the best love interests ever to be presented in YA novels! Oliver isn’t your stereotypical bad boy, he’s a nice boy. He isn’t active like Emmy, but he is still adventurous and really does love trying new things. Making his relationship with Emmy very balanced with enough similarities, but differences to keep it natural and realistic. Typing about realism, it takes Oliver time to open up and his pacing is very well thought out, he hesitates to open up and expose himself, which really keeps a reader guessing throughout the novel as we get to know him more and more. He was a victim and he needed time to process that and that made everything so much more human and organic -he wasn’t some cliche or a time bomb that goes off- he first needed time to process his own situation people sharing it and he did that. There was also mention of guidance counselors and therapists for Oliver, Emmy, Caro and Drew, which was a smart thing to add in. It was kept on the side lines, but mentioned more than once to be a helpful outlet for all of them, which was definitely a great thing to have in this type of narrative. Now, Caro and Drew also visited therapists/guidance counselors after Oliver’s disappearance, but they are so much more than that. Since Caro is basically the coolest chick ever written and I truly identified with her. While Drew is a bro, the dude who will always be there for his buddies no matter what and who just-so-happens to be gay as well. They were a dynamic duo who were central to the plot, but held their own separate sub plots that made them much more three dimensional and unique to the story. Their characters did not just exist for the plot, but were more than that, which was definitely appreciated. Plus Caro and Emmy made some pretty fantastic points about loving their bodies and knowing that they look great. Also, bonus points for repeatedly adding scenes that dealt with cat calling and sexual harassment, those girls dealt with those situations gracefully and did not hide their irritation to Drew or Oliver about the incidents. The other central characters are Emmy’s Mom and Dad who are overly protective to the point that it’s greatly effecting Emmy’s life. She can’t stay out past 9 o’clock, can’t surf and no boyfriends: freedoms that are typically exercised by seventeen-year-olds This has created an abyss between Emmy and her parents, making it very gripping to read and see how their relationship is affected and developed by Oliver’s return. The relationship exhibited between Emmy and her parents was very realistic and definitely show a typical parent-teenager relationship. (Slight spoiler alert) Especially with the scene between Emmy and Maureen when Emmy tells Maureen why she can say that she hates her parents. Overall, all the characters were pretty great and very relatable with personalities that popped right off the page.

Now, when I read I like to come up with a question or two to consider while reading. They are usually character oriented since a character can really make or break a story for me. So, when I read the description, the question: “Does time and space really change a person?” popped into my head. Which is definitely something worth considering since it does become an essential plot point. But there was another question that came after I read Chapter Seven -where Caro and Drew are discussing their forgiveness and unwavering hope in the other as friendship- which was: “What is friendship?” This question is continually answered throughout the novel with reasons being unwavering hope, loan out clothes, sharing food and always being truthful. Are any of these answers right? Are any of them wrong? It really depends on the context. So, that is something to consider and is excellently displayed by the author who sprinkles in the comments so naturally it’s as if it’s simply a recording of teenagers socializing.

With those questions in mind reading Emmy & Oliver was simply addictive. The story and writing were just riveting; there were times when it was physically hard to put the book down. This wasn’t anything generic that I have read one million times before, this novel offered me something new and it was wonderful. I was kept guessing and continually surprised by new developments and turns in the plot. Everything was woven beautifully together especially the intercalary chapters that typically I dread, but this time I actually liked them and sort of wished that there were more. They offered a lot of context and foreshadowing for the following chapter and they were just adorable little scenes of kids being kids, it was so cute!

Alright finally it is time to get to my gripe. There is only one and it’s pretty small. In chapter 2 it is stated that the day Oliver was found was a Thursday. So Emmy, Caro and Drew wait for his return at her house. Then in chapter 3 when the day has “dragged on” Drew calls home and tells his family that it’s a Friday. Now is he just lying or is there something else happening? Aside from that, everything else checks out, so congratulations on an astounding novel.