Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favourite 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?

My Review

Emmy and Oliver is a book that aims to juxtapose cuteness with a serious heart and I’m just left feeling very ambivalent about it.

There’s nothing deeply wrong with this novel. Except it feels like a bunch of other contemporary YA novels I’ve read before.

Like okay the kidnapping storyline is pretty unusual…

Oliver gets kidnapped by his dad age 7 and isn’t found until ten years later when he then has to somehow fit back into the life that was stolen from him…

And I think here’s the flaw in this book. It’s not Oliver’s story. It’s Emmy’s that we are given. It’s told from Emmy’s perspective. Emmy the girl next door who was left behind and had to deal with super over-protective parents etc. And Emmy is perfectly lovely. She’s got a lot going on; trying to break free from her parents’ shackles, applying for uni, dealing with ever evolving friendships, falling in love again with the boy next door which is very different when you’re both aged 17 rather than 7…

But everything is Emmy’s perspective and I really craved to know what was going on in Oliver’s head. We got an outside perspective sure, but I wanted to know how he was coping at every second. I wanted to really feel how conflicted he claimed to be. I wanted to understand the loss and the grief, the anger and hatred, the hopelessness and the love…. Oliver is such a torn character. Because he didn’t see his dad as a kidnapper. He saw him as just a dad. So to me he has such an interesting story to tell that I would have preferred to at least have had a dual perspective novel.

I did like that this book tried to look at different familial relationships especially. Emmy’s relationship with her parents was particularly well written and I loved the complexity of their dynamic. But I keep saying it… I wanted more Oliver. I would have loved to really examine the new relationship he was trying to build with his mother. To me too much was left off page because it was Emmy’s perspective.

The teenage friendships were well written I thought. I liked that each member of the quartet (Drew, Caro, Emmy, Oliver) felt unique and had a distinct purpose in the novel. Although, I almost wish this was a duology or had a companion novel with one book being from Emmy and Oliver’s perspectives and the other then being from Drew and Caro’s because each character had super interesting backstories; Drew was dealing with familial reaction to him being gay and dating, Caro was dealing with feeling lost in her family setup as her parents had a lot of kids.

Overall this was nicely written. It had great heart and emotion… far too tidy an ending for me personally but still it was as authentic and honest an ending that I could have expected from this style of book.

But I feel there was missed potential re expanding on the perspectives of the other teenage main characters and therefore this book just felt a bit too run-of-the-mill contemporary YA.

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12 thoughts on “Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway – Book Review

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