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Emmy & Oliver

Review

Emmy & Oliver

When Emmy is seven years old, her best friend and neighbor Oliver is kidnapped on a Friday after school by his father. For ten years, Oliver remains a ghost --- an invisible fixture in the community --- and one that haunts Emmy relentlessly, even as she tries to live her own life.
 
The afternoon Oliver was kidnapped, he had signed yes on a note their best friend Caroline had written him: Do you like Emmy? Yes or No. And it’s that note that she keeps crumpled and worn in a secret place where not even her remaining best friends know about it. And just as she had been learning to have a life separate of his memory --- her parents had treated her like she was the one who disappeared all those years ago --- everything changes when Oliver is found again.
 
Honestly, I was bit apprehensive about how I would like the book; I’ve been burned before by high concept ideas where the characters just didn’t live up to the world they were created in. I’ve also put down multiple novels where characters felt too young for their stories. Would this seem like a middle-grade novel masquerading as a YA?  I’m happy to report that this wasn’t the case at all. I sometimes felt that Emmy’s voice was a little young but I quickly forgot about that as I rushed through the story. The idea of a halted friendship, paused for ten years, was so tragic and interesting that I was desperate to know how it would play out.
 
Even as I fell in love with Emmy and Oliver’s easy banter and fell into the comfortable camaraderie of Emmy’s friend group, I was constantly aware of the issue at the heart of the book. Oliver was kidnapped when he was seven. His father stole him away from his mom and his life in California, going so far as to change his memory and keeping the truth for him as he grew. The book never strays away from that; instead, Robin handles it with aplomb, not ignoring the messy complexities of familial abduction.
 
The idea of a halted friendship, paused for ten years, was so tragic and interesting that I was desperate to know how it would play out.
I think that while maintaining the heart of the story --- Emmy and Oliver’s stalled and revived relationship—Robin also confronts the main premise, and the reality: parental and familial kidnapping is real and it destroys lives. In doing so, Robin created a fictional tale that feels real, as heartbreaking and tragic as the stories on the news, except this time, we get an inside glimpse at the ones left behind.
 
I also loved that Emmy wasn't a character who pined over Oliver the whole book. She was introduced as a character who was independent and trying to find her own place away from the gap that her best friend left in their lives. I really enjoyed her point of view throughout EMMY & OLIVER as she grappled with whether or not it was good that Oliver came back --- for her or for him.
 
All in all, this is a story that felt light and enjoyable for a summer read but intense and rewarding as a page-turner. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone. I imagine it will be on many “Best Of” lists, as it should be. This story is important and wonderful and I look forward to the discussion and thoughts it will no doubt attract.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on August 7, 2015

Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2017
  • Genres: Young Adult 14+, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0062330608
  • ISBN-13: 9780062330604