Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Emmy & Oliver

Emmy & Oliver
By Robin Benway
Expected publication June 23, 2015 by HarperTeen

Emmy's life changed forever when she was seven - her best friend, Oliver, was kidnapped by his father. Now, ten years later, Oliver is back, but both of them are different people. Can they renew their friendship? Can Emmy possibly understand what Oliver's life has been like? Can Oliver understand what Emmy went through?

I don't remember how I first heard about this book. I've never read Benway before, but I thought the concept of this sounded really interesting. I'm fascinated by true crime stuff and that includes fiction inspired by it, so I was excited to see what this story had in store for me.

I have been pretty unimpressed with most of my recent reads: nothing has been truly awful, but not much has really stuck out either. This book might be the exception, and I'm kind of surprised by that. See, this book is not terribly flashy - it's not getting an insane amount of buzz (though I've seen it talked about in a few places) and it doesn't have a crazy complicated plot or some sort of gimmick to entice readers. It's kind of a quieter story, pretty straightforward, an exploration of growing up after a traumatic event and how to reconcile a friendship that was essentially halted for a decade. Perhaps it's because of the lack of flash and bang that this book has been one of my favorite recent reads.

Without all that complicated stuff and gimmicks, this book gave me a chance to focus on the story and the characters. Benway really succeeds in both of these aspects. I know I just said that there isn't a lot of complicated stuff here, but that was maybe a little bit false. Yes, boil it down to its bare bones and this story is really about two characters figuring out how to be with each other. But, both are dealing with extremely complex situations. I loved that Benway was able to explore both Emmy and Oliver's situations without making one seem any easier or less complex than the other. They have lived very different lives but both were forever changed by Oliver's disappearance and Benway doesn't make one's journey more awful than the other.

That being said, the characters really made it easy to fall into this novel. I loved Emmy, Oliver, and everyone else. They felt truly authentic and I think they will feel so for teens as well. Emmy reminded me a lot of other teen characters I've enjoyed - she wants to please her parents and her friends but she also wants to be true to herself and finding that balance is something a lot of teens struggle with. I thought Oliver was written honestly as well and I appreciated how well Benway handled the conflicting emotions Oliver felt.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It felt genuine and compelling and unique. I'll definitely be reading more by Benway in the future and will happily recommend this to teens.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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