Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway mixes that cute contemporary read with the slightest bit of mystery – and not your average “mystery” either. Nope, Emmy & Oliver does not contain a murder of any kind. Instead, readers try to understand why Oliver’s father kidnapped him for ten years at the age of seven, thus separating Oliver and Emmy’s precious childhood friendship. As Oliver returns to Emmy’s hometown, readers await some answers about Oliver’s still MIA father while the relationship between Emmy and Oliver picks up right where they left off ten years ago. Emmy & Oliver is a unique contemporary that is relatable and heartwarming.
Right off the bat, Emmy & Oliver begins with a flashback and history of Emmy and Oliver at the age of seven years old. I was immediately surrounded by this cloud of cute, my heart warming at the memories of second-grade crushes and passing notes. I had a good feeling about the overall adorableness of this book, and I’m happy to say that Benway sets the mood expertly for the rest of the novel. Benway consistently keeps it that way, forming a unified wholeness to the story.
What’s interesting to me is that while I think the story as a whole is very relatable, I never found a point to connect with Emmy. The story is told from her perspective, but I don’t have a strong opinion of her either way. Emmy is a senior in high school, and obviously with the return of her childhood friend after ten years, it’s going to be a shocker. I really enjoy how Benway makes her a real teenager: hiding things from her parents, babysitting, figuring out issues with friends, and applying to colleges. However, I don’t love Emmy as a character, but I certainly don’t dislike her either. I think Benway could have spiced up her character a little more; for me, she is a little – I don’t want to use the word dull, that’s a bit harsh – but lackluster, maybe? Emmy is missing something.
I’d like to point out a major highlight in this story: involved parents! This is another quality in which I found to be very realistic and relatable to the reality of a teenager’s life. Emmy’s parents are in her hair about every little thing she does, and I nodded my head in agreement in nearly every chapter. The typical YA parents who are mysteriously never present is not the case in Emmy & Oliver. One of the main “morals” of this story is about doing things that you want to do, not what your parents want you to do. As a recent senior graduate, I think young teens and myself alike have something to think about in the coming years.
With its adorable romance, relatable teen lifestyle and parenting, Emmy & Oliver makes for a solid contemporary, despite having a main character that is a little plain. I’ve always enjoyed Benway’s stories, so this one definitely won’t be my last. I especially recommend Emmy & Oliver to readers who are still trying to learn who they are and who they want to be.