Published by Simon & Schuster Australia, HarperTeen on 16th July 2016
Boffins, Dymocks, Booktopia
"Oliver's absence split us wide open, dividing our neighborhood along a fault line strong enough to cause an earthquake. An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you're shaking. "
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.
But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?
Can I just say, I have a keen interest in stories like Oliver’s. I find the psychological behind cases like Oliver’s fascinating. The why especially. Maybe there’s a certain aura of mystery that shrouds missing persons cases, especially when they stay missing (which is sad) that projects that fascination. Which is why I was really keen to read this cute contemporary novel.
One of the great, readable aspects about Emmy & Oliver s is that it is a novel that is centred around Emmy’s relationships not just with Oliver, but with her best friends as well as her parents. I find that sometimes in contemporaries the romance takes over the story to a point where the secondary characters feel like they are just there, without any purpose other than just to pop up every now and again. That was definitely not the case in this book. The witty banter she had going on with her friends was so refreshing. It didn’t feel forced, but rather natural. My only issue was how many times dude was used. Is that really a thing, Californians?
Even though the novel is solely from Emmy’s point of view, Benway gives us more than a glimpse of how Oliver’s disappearance and subsequent return affected Caro and Drew as well, and how those bonds of friendship were repaired. One of the reoccurring themes throughout the story was the notion that it wasn’t the past that made you who you were today, but how you are in the now, and that was something that resonated with me a lot. There’s a huge difference from being a child and a teenager, and to hold on to a idealistic view of someone from years ago rather than the person they are now just seems wasteful.
Another great thing was Emmy’s relationship with her parents. It was there. It wasn’t just a plot device. Emmy had an actual human relationship with her folks, and I loved it. Though it was infuriating at times that Emmy was quite stubborn in talking to her parents about certain things, like the surfing, you could understand her need to please them and how much she did respect them – even if she wanted to break away from the stifling clutches of being a single child who has been witness to the fallout of Oliver’s abduction, she still manages to have a genuine repartee with them. You can feel the love on the pages.
Sadly, for all the good, there was the bad. Not that it was necessarily bad, but more disappointing. I didn’t feel invested in the romance between Oliver and Emmy for one. I felt it was a bit contrived, and slightly over done. The friendship between the two felt forced just to make way for a romance later on when they were teenagers. And it wasn’t just believable to me that Emmy had been hanging out for a guy all these years that she had thought she’d never see again, and when she did see him again, it was more on a romantic level rather than platonic. Which was why the end of the novel was a bit of a let down, as the romance took over and the tests of friendships and family between Emmy and her peers seemed to be hastily set aside and resolved without much fanfare.
The same went for the darker tone of the novel – Oliver’s abduction. I felt like it went around in circles a bit with the repetitiveness when Oliver was describing his emotions and feelings, especially in the case of his mum. I guess it was hard, because the novel was from Emmy’s POV, which meant we only saw things from her side, but that fascinating aspect of missing persons that I thought was going to be great wasn’t really there – and even the resolution at the end between Oliver and his father was skimmed across, making the rest of the novel a bit lacklustre.
Overall, while I can see how Emmy and Oliver has become a favourite between many readers, certain aspects of the novel fell flat, taking away from the great parts of the book. Yet at the same time I found myself enjoying the witty banter and the friendships Emmy had with her family, Caro & Drew (and Oliver). Definitely a good book for a lazy afternoon read!