Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (3 out of 5)


So you have our heroine of the book- her name is Emmy. She just wants to take charge of her own life, destiny, well…everything. Did I mention she’s a normal teen? She’s sarcastic, awkward, and still trying to go out and do what normal girls her age do. Except that her overprotective parents won’t allow it. Nothing has been the same since Oliver disappeared. Except.. Oliver’s returned, ten years after he disappeared (his father kidnapped him). But Oliver of ten years ago and Oliver of now? are two different people. He’s trying to figure out who he is, what he is, what he wants, everything..because everything has changed…including him. Nothing was as it seemed, and could it ever be the way that he imagined it? The way that Emmy imagined it? That they would be inseparable and best friends forever? The thought is a bit much for poor Oliver to even consider. Can these two find their way back to each other? Can they learn to be best friends or maybe more? Will those hardships and emotional pitfalls ever vanish or will they keep Emmy and Oliver from being as close as they once were?

This is normally a story I would get into, but I had a hard time. It’s not an easy tale to tell, and Benway structures it as such, meaning there are no happy dance Pharrell moments where Oliver’s ten year absence is hid behind a buffet, doily clothed buffet table full of pork skins and sunshine smiles. So naturally, following this guy’s ordeal, is going to be a more downtrodden affair with the telling of the novel. And indeed it is. Points for not taking the easy way out! However, having said that, I just couldn’t shake the miasma surrounding Oliver and therefore, Emmy, by association. There was a low hanging cumulus cloud hanging over much of the book. At any moment, I honestly expected the dude to reveal he never got a measles vaccine because some blonde bimbette told him not to. Or worse. I honestly expected Oliver would come to a sudden, fatal end. And then we’d have Emmy even more upset than she already was. So- there was a loss of star rating to the book because as much as I love realistic young adult fiction, it’s nice once in a while to have some light. This felt like a whole lotta dark.

The friends in the story are a pleasure. Caro is and has been Emmy’s best friend in the time that Oliver was gone. She is the youngest of five who dreams of getting out and living with Emmy. These two are so close it’s like they were separated at birth. Drew is a mutual friend who is struggling with the fact that he’s revealed he’s gay and that he’s somehow let his parents down by being who he is, which is opposite from what they believed. Very realistic, these two friends of Emmy’s. I loved them, great characters, and I love that Benway is realistic about their individual situations and challenges.

Emmy and Oliver’s burgeoning relationship? It’s a rough ride, as you imagine it would be. The fact that the long-separated but still very alike friends can almost finish one another’s sentences and their camaraderie burns hot and strong; well, it’s obvious that there are some deeply buried feelings that they have for each other. No matter how bad or rough shit gets, they still have an eye out for the other. Isn’t that one of the things you desire in a partner? Someone who has your back, shares similar thoughts, and help each other through rough times? Yes, please. That’s why I really enjoyed their relationship- it’s a deeply rooted friendship with a lot of love and something stronger waiting to be cultivated in the proper environment. Benway does a fantastic job of telling their story. Ultimately, the only thing that bugged me was that the black-light never seemed to dim and the sunshine never seemed to be out at the right time. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Was it the best book I’ve read recently? It just did not rate 5 popcorn buckets. I was reading at a good clip, but I wasn’t entranced.

Emmy & Oliver is out June 23, 2015 on HarperTeen.

~ by generationgbooks on February 8, 2015.

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