Published by Simon & Schuster UK on July 16th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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'Oliver's absence split us wide open, dividing our neighborhood along a fault line strong enough to cause an earthquake. An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you're shaking.'
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.
But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?
This book made my heart melt. It reminded me of why I love the contemporary genre so much, because books like Emmy & Oliver never fail to give me all the feels. I’ve missed reading books that just have a great romance that will warm your heart and this book definitely gave me all the warm and fuzzies.
Emmy and Oliver were neighbours and the best of friends when they were children but everything changes when 7 year old Oliver is kidnapped by his father and never heard from again. Emmy’s parents become ridiculously overprotective, and Emmy and her friends have to learn to live and grow without Oliver. Ten years later, Oliver returns to their small town in California but things have changed and he’s no longer the same person he was 10 years ago. And it’s time that Emmy and Oliver’s parents realise just that.
“Love makes you do the most insane things for your children, crazy stuff that you never thought you’d be capable of.”
This book explores some tough issues. We get to see all of the characters struggle through the consequences of the kidnapping. Oliver returns to California hurt and confused. He doesn’t know how to fit in at school or at home with his new stepfather and half-sisters. His mother has no idea how to talk to him and they dance around each other in circles. He’s always been home-schooled and doesn’t know how to fit in at high school where he’s been held back a year. On top of that, he struggles with the thought that his father is a criminal, because all he’s ever known is the kind and caring father who taught him to ride his bike and celebrated his birthdays with him. But while I really appreciated Robin Benway exploring all the different aspects of Oliver’s struggles, I had a hard time connecting to the emotion of it. I felt like we were being told all about what Oliver was going through rather than being shown. The book is written in first person narration from Emmy’s perspective, so we never really get to experience what Oliver was struggling with beyond what he told Emmy and what she observed herself.
In Emmy & Oliver, we also get to see the impact that the kidnapping has had on parenting style. Emmy’s parents, who witnessed the horror and devastation that Oliver’s mother went through, became very overprotective of Emmy, giving her a ridiculously early curfew, not allowing her to surf or do anything that might be potentially dangerous and even going so far as to not allow her to go away to college. As a result, Emmy was forced to come up with lies and cover stories almost every day of her life in order to follow her true passions. In this book, we experience all of the pressures and restrictions along with Emmy and I really connected with and understood her character and what she was going through at home. But at the same time, what I didn’t understand was why Emmy was so passive and non-confrontational about it. She suffered through it silently and even after the climax and confrontation with her parents, she still ended up conceding and doing what they wanted her to do. I felt that she almost gave up and was just waiting patiently for her parents to change their minds. Even though Emmy is definitely more of a mature character, I expected some tantrums from her because that’s what I think a normal teenager would do. It just didn’t feel realistic to me.
I also had some minor problems with the plot development and pacing of the book. The first half of the novel is definitely dedicated to developing relationships and the romance between Emmy and Oliver, and the more serious issues were left largely unexplored until the second half of the book. Because of this, some of the issues weren’t explored enough for my liking and I thought it was a little bit underdeveloped. For example, I would have liked a little bit more background on the kidnapping and what had occurred. I just felt like we were focusing only on the consequences and aftermath without addressing what had happened in the first place. Some of the resolutions also came too quickly and easily for me. Some of the conflicts were resolved without anything really being done. Characters just seemed to change their mind overnight about how they were feeling. I just needed some more plot development.
What I thought was the most noteworthy aspect of this book was the romance. I absolutely fell in love with Emmy and Oliver together. They were adorable and I thought that it was a really supportive and healthy relationship. Their relationship progressed very naturally and I didn’t think that it was insta-lovey at all, especially because they had known and liked each other as kids. We got little snippets of their childhood throughout the book and I thought these were really sweet and heartwarming.
This was a very sweet coming-of-age story about two characters who have been through a lot because of something that was out of their control. Emmy & Oliver features some very likable characters and a relationship that will melt your heart. However, for me, the plot and issues were slightly underdeveloped and took a backseat to the romance. I just needed some more exploration of the issues in order to be completely immersed in the emotions.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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