Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

24733940Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
June 23rd 2015 by HarperTeen
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, Family
Source: Purchased from Waterstones
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones
Goodreads Summary
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?

This book encompasses everything I love about contemporary books. This is my first Robin Benway book and I can guarantee it won’t be the last. Emmy & Oliver is the kind of book that takes you on an emotional journey. It’s both happy and sad, heartbreaking and hopeful.

This story follows the journey of Emmy and Oliver. After being kidnapped by his father 10 years ago, Oliver returns to his hometown; a community rattled by his disappearance, a mother who desperately wanted him home, and friends that have never been able to fill the hole his disappearance left in their heart. However, adjusting to life back home is not an easy feat. 10 years have past, people have changed and so how can you go back to what you were after everything that happened.

The characters are well and truly the heart of this story. Having returned home, Oliver is full of hurt, confusion and is essentially a stranger in his own home. My heart well and truly breaks for him. Everything he ever knew has been shattered. His dad is a criminal and he struggles to connect with his mother and is forced to adjust to a new family dynamic. His journey is not an easy one. There’s a lot of anger and he doesn’t know where or who that anger should be directed towards. What’s even more heartbreaking is the fact a lot of his hurt and guilt stems from the action of his parents.

Emmy, is also facing some issues of her own. Following Oliver’s kidnapping, her parents went to some extreme measures to ensure her safety. Their over-protectiveness suffocates Emmy which leads her to hide her true passion, surfing, and is forced to lie about her whereabouts in order to protect her secret. Emmy herself was also shaken by Oliver’s disappearance. Once best friends, Emmy and Oliver search for ways to build upon that old connection. However, it’s not an easy journey as Emmy is unsure how to bring Oliver back into the fold and they’re both unsure about how to react and behave around one another. The journey they share is heartwarming. From being childhood best friends, to practically strangers, Oliver and Emmy slowly grow back together as friends and eventually as more. It’s truly a beautiful journey, one that I am glad to have experienced.

There was no insta-love in this book. Instead we have two people that learn to grow back together. We see the two of them adjust to having each other back in their lives, develop a friendship which eventually turns into love. These two were so supportive of one another and yet they also shined as individuals and retained their independence in the relationship. I absolutely adored everything about Emmy and Oliver’s relationship.

However, this isn’t just Oliver and Emmy’s story. Our secondary characters are also forced to adjust to Oliver’s return and have to adapt to a new dynamic within their friendship. Caro and Drew were an absolute delight. They’re the kind of friends that will stick by you through thick and thin. Their support, loyalty and friendship never wavered. Even when they were challenged by sudden changes and were forced to face the realities of the future they always had each others backs.

Family is another focus in the book and it’s so refreshing to see the parents play an active role in their child’s life. This is something that you so rarely see in YA books and I adored the sense of realism to their dynamic. Sometime the over-protectiveness of the parents was frustrating, but given the circumstances was also understandable as we get to see how Oliver’s disappearance effected them as well.

This book is not all doom and gloom and even when dealing with the fallout of Oliver’s kidnapping I felt that the consequences and the reactions from the characters were so natural and so realistic. There was never a moment that felt over-dramatic or unrealistic. It’s also important to note that within this sadness and confusion, there is also laughter and happiness. The emotional reactions were a perfect balance which again only heightened the connection between these characters.

At it’s heart this story is about friendship, family, loss and love.

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