Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 23, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-half-stars

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

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?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

Emmy & Oliver is my third Robin Benway novel, and it’s definitely my favorite thus far, though I have a couple I need to go back and catch up on. This novel has everything I want: well-rounded characters, a ship ship ship, voiciness, banter, and feels. The darker, less fluffy cover worried me, because I thought this book might be a total departure from the Benway books I’d come to know. However, though it’s a bit darker, it’s still got that warm-hearted, happy-making center of delightfulness. Emmy & Oliver will make you feel things, some sad but mostly happy, and it’s just so great, guys.

At first, I was definitely a bit skeptical about the plot, because, again, I feared the book would dark and melodramatic. See, it’s about Emmy and Oliver (I bet you never saw that coming) meeting again after ten years apart. Oliver’s dad kidnapped him, and after a decade he’s found and brought home to his mom. All Emmy had of him were memories from when they were little kids, and suddenly he’s back. They had adorable little kid crushes on each other, but now they’re teens and everything is a mess and it’s been SO long.

What I love love love about the way Benway handles this plot is that there is little drama as there can possibly be while doing service to the heavy subject matter. It’s not light because Benway doesn’t deal with the emotional fallout. The thing is that I don’t tend to love books where because intense shit is happening everyone is so intense and serious all the time as a result. Emmy and Oliver are generally pretty happy, friendly people, so they are still very much themselves even with all of this going on. It’s like this whole thing is so huge that they can’t really focus on all of it at once. It’s an underlying current to all of their tensions with their parents and stuff, but Emmy & Oliver focuses on the day-to-day more than the big picture, so there’s a lot more laughter and friendship than tears and tension.

The teens in Emmy & Oliver feel so much like teens, and it’s truly wonderful. One thing that really added to that authenticity for me were the fights with their parents. All of them, Oliver included, have parents who love them. Even so, they often feel like their parents are ruining their lives, because let’s be real what teenager has not felt like that. I’m sure I yelled that at my parents at some point during my childhood. There’s this one scene where Emmy, Oliver, Caro, and Drew are outlining all the problems in their lives and they conclude that they’re fucked. I loved this so much because they’re bright, upper middle class kids, and they clearly have bright futures ahead of them, but, especially when you’re a teen, your problems feel so real and immediate and life-ruining. I mean, it’s still true as an adult, but there’s a bit more life experience to Jiminy Cricket in your ear about perspective.

Speaking of those teens, I love them all so much. The voice in Emmy & Oliver is incredibly strong, but, even better, it’s not just Emmy who’s a strong character. Caro and Drew both get their own story lines, much smaller than Emmy and Oliver’s, but they’re there. Both Emmy and Oliver’s families are fully-developed too. The parents get screen time, both in parental angry mode and in fun family mode. Everyone feels like a real person I could meet on the street. As I was reading I highlighted so many quotes, because this book is so funny, silly, and honest. There are so many amazing moments between the friends, between Emmy and Oliver, and between the families.

The only thing I didn’t like in Emmy & Oliver were the sporadic little flashbacks to when Emmy and Oliver were kids. The thing is that they’re written in third present, which is really awkward. Plus, I didn’t feel like they really added much to the overall narrative for me. They’re all under three pages, and all they really established for me were that some of the settings had historical importance they sometimes didn’t even remember, which is cute but also not essential. Why third person present? Why? Also, that last one was sooo cheesy, and I wish it hadn’t been the way the novel closed out. Erasing those from my memory banks commencing now.

Before I was even halfway through my egalley, I preordered the hardcover, which tells you everything you need to know really. At that point I was so sure I would love it that I bought it, and I regret nothing. Emmy & Oliver is amazing and rereads are going to be necessary.

Favorite Quote:

“I think they’re waiting for me to freak out or, I don’t know, have this crazy breakdown or something. My mom’s even reading this book right now, How to Talk to Your Teenager.”

We both rolled our eyes at the same time.

“Gross,” I said.

Right? Like, if you want to talk to me, don’t read a book about it. Just talk to me. I’m a person.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif you're so cute friends monica

2 responses to “Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway”

  1. I loved this too, and it’s my favorite Benway book, too, although I still have to read Audrey, Wait! I didn’t mind the little flashbacks to when they were kids, but I didn’t love them either. My only complaint was really that I wanted more Oliver! I wish some chapters were in his POV, because I just loved him so much and wanted to know what was going through his mind.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      The flashbacks weren’t my thing, but it annoyed me that they didn’t add anything to the book at all. They didn’t seem plot-relevant, except for the opening flashback. Hmmm, I’d be cool with more Oliver, but I’m not sure if I’d want his POV. Maybe Benway will do a novella from his POV? That’s getting more common. I’m not sure if she’s done a boy POV yet, actually.

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