Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | Rating: ★★★★★
Emmy & Oliver initially caught my eye due to its gorgeous cover art and the promise of a plot that was reminiscent, yet still different, to that of Face on the Milk Carton. Nostalgic fans of that classic young adult series and MTV’s more recent hit Finding Carter will be drawn in immediately.
Although the plots are similar and deal with kidnapping, Emmy & Oliver is in a league of its own. Emmy is purely a delight: sarcastic, warm and very easy to connect with. It’s obvious from the get go that their town was left in a very strained aftermath when Emmy was a child. The day everything changed was ordinary beyond belief but took a drastic turn which seemed to haunt some of the town for the next ten years.
Oliver was last seen being picked up from school by his father. No one thought twice about this. And Emmy, Caro and Drew were left behind for years after Oliver didn’t return home. With his mother a mess, it left scarring on his family and friends – but in a way, they had never lost hope.
During the ten years in between, people picked up the pieces and tried to carry on with their lives. Some never lost hope that one day Oliver’s father would return him. It’s a tricky scenario and puts a lot of pressure on Emmy’s parents to keep an eye on her after seeing what it’s done to Oliver’s mother. A lot of things changed on that fateful day and yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Emmy never forgot Oliver. Nor do Caro and Drew. He left a mark on their lives and worked through his disappearance together. Robin portrays their friendship incredibly: it’s obvious that they love each other and there’s just this air about them that makes their friendship previous, real and beautiful. They each fit with one another and you just feel it, you know?
You feel how much they need each other. And this level of friendship, so pure and so warm, is sorely missing from young adult literature these days. Each character is different from the next but the love they feel for one another is the kind of friendship we all desire. Caring for one another, inside jokes, overall fun.
Things change once more upon the discovery of Oliver and the announcement that he will be coming home. Emmy, Caro and Drew are delighted to have their old friend come back but they aren’t sure that he will remember them. Or if he is okay. No one gives you pamphlets on how to reconnect with your childhood friend who was kidnapped so their exploration of all of it is very genuine and comes from both light and dark.
Emmy and Oliver reconnect pretty quickly. It's a discovery of childhood sweethearts lost and found. Pure cuteness on many levels, but much deeper due to the circumstances. Something about the two just fits. There's spark, there's warmth and there's so much to explore. It's young love at its finest, its friendship at its deepest. She teaches him to surf and there’s just overall cuteness between the two. It’s impossible to not want these two to be happy because they are just so real and they have been through so much. You feel these two, and Caro and Drew, become something of a friend to you. There’s a lot of difficulty in their relationships as they try and navigate it all.
Oliver struggles. This much is to be expected. He feels guilty about a lot of things and can’t help but wonder why this all happened to him. His memories are weak of the childhood he spent there. And we learn about how he lived in those ten years, including his own discovery of all that had happened and just how he found his way back home.
His father was never physically abusive towards him. His story is pretty simple: father believes he will lose custody of his only son, father does idiotic and cruel thing by taking him and running, father raised son and moved around a lot and made him believe his mother was the one to leave. Oliver even went by the name of Colin.
We don’t see much of his fathers side of the story until the end is near. And although they reach a resolution, the way the last quarter of the book unfolded was a little too quick for my taste and just seemed generally rushed. This doesn’t effect my love for the novel itself, in fact it is one of my favorite recent releases, I just wish that it hadn’t ended as quickly as it had.
Emmy & Oliver is a tale of love and friendship and coming home. It’s the perfect contemporary read for all ages and will brings a smile to your face as well as the occasional tear to your eyes. It’s smart, it’s fun, it’s sweet and sarcastic.