Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway Review: Oliver Can Kidnap Me Anytime He Wants

December 30, 2015 by Jenna | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway Review: Oliver Can Kidnap Me Anytime He WantsEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on July 16th 2015
Source: Purchased
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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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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38 responses to “Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway Review: Oliver Can Kidnap Me Anytime He Wants

  1. Fantastic review, Jenna! I’m really looking forward to read this book. I’ve heard the audiobook is good, so I plat to listen to it. Thanks for writing about your issues with the book, so far I’ve read a lot of fangirling reviews, so it’s interesting to see different approach. Also it’s interesting if my view of Emmy’s relationship with her parents would be different as I’m a mom myself and I somewhat can understand her parents need to protect their daughter.
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    • Oh that would definitely be an interesting perspective! I'd be interested in what you think of the parenting in this book. I still think it was a little bit too much. I mean, they didn't even want Emmy to go to college because they wanted to keep her close. But nevertheless, I'm keen to hear what you think šŸ˜€

    • The family aspect was definitely a standout in this novel, as well as the romance! I really enjoyed how involved they were, even though they were too involved and stifling at times šŸ™‚

  2. Sadly, I didn't like this one as much. I felt like it was too light-hearted for a book that has a disturbing topic. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though. The romance is cute!

    • I can totally see what you mean. I wanted a bit more exploration of the issues that really mattered too. It was just resolved a bit too quickly and was too focused on the romance. But the romance was definitely cute and worth the read!

    • I'm so happy that you bought this! It was really adorable and sweet, with a good amount of sad and serious. I hope you enjoy this one!

  3. The romance here sounds adorable, it's actually rare to find a realistically supportive one. But Emmy's passive character would have annoyed me too! Lovely review Jenna!

    • This romance was so cute, Jeann! I just want to cuddle them to my chest or like glue them together so that they stay together forever šŸ˜€

  4. Braine-Talk Supe

    Romance shmomance. It's a letdown when this remains the focus when there are more pressing issues at hand.

    • Yes, I agree. I don't think it was too bad. It just needed maybe 50 pages more to really explore and resolve all of the important issues at hand. I enjoyed that it was a bit more lighthearted and wasn't a really dark and heavy book about kidnapping… but it just needed a bit MORE for me to give it 5 stars.

    • Oh you're totally right about that! It is the saddest fluffy book. The most warm and fuzzy but sad book. I enjoyed the romance a whole lot but I just needed like 50 more pages for all the issues to be properly explored and resolved.

  5. I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS ONE *melts from feels from thinking about Emmy and Oliver*
    Yeah I feel you about the exploration of the kidnapping though; for me the ending resolution with Oliver's dad was just like 'whoa what happened' lmao. BUT LITERALLY THE ROMANCE WAS UMF. <3 Also I adored the characters and the family relationships.
    The AU cover is much more prettier than the US one *grumbles*

    • WHERE IS MY OLIVER?! Okay I want an Oliver without all the family problems and the kidnapping issues… but I WANT. And what?! No! I like the navy US cover a lot more! Though, the sea blue on the UK cover does make sense…

  6. I feel like this book is an understated contemporary. It's not overly dramatic and angst full. I agree that I felt like the issue at hand could have been explored a bit more. However, the romance was so beautiful and I love the way that we get see how this event not only affected Emmy but we also see the impact on the community. The fact that the parents were very much present in Emmy's life was very refreshing.

    • The romance is A+! Could not have asked for a better relationship. I did wish the book was a little bit longer so we could've focused on the serious issues a little bit more, or… you know… just seen a bit more of Emmy and Oliver being cute together.

    • It was the most amazing romance and relationship I've read in a while. It just warmed my heart so much! I hope you love Emmy & Oliver just as much!

  7. What a lovely review, Jenna!
    I adored Emmy & Oliver myself and I definitely thought it was a book that was all about the feels. I especially loved how the family members played an important role as well. It's not very common for the parents to play such significant roles in YA stories. I can definitely understand your pacing issues when it came to some of the themes. I do remember the first half of the story being dedicated to the characters and less to the themes as well.
    In any case, I'm glad you enjoyed this one.
    Lovely review! šŸ™‚
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    • I agree with everything you said! I also liked how present the parents were in the story. Even though they frustrated me at times, I was really happy to see how involved they were in their kids' lives.

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