Book: Emmy and Oliver
Author: Robin Benway
Published: June 23, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Emmy and Oliver have been best friends since the day they were born. But when he was seven, he disappeared, kidnapped by his own father. Emmy spent the next ten years not knowing what became of him.
Ten years later, Oliver is back, but he's changed. He's no longer a second-grader. He's taller, he's quieter, and he's spent the last ten years hidden away by his father. He's a completely different person - except for the moments when he remembers an old joke, an old event, or even just smiles in a particular way that reminds her of the little boy who was her best friend.
Emmy's not the only one feeling unsettled by Oliver's return. His relationship with his mother is rocky, he struggles to connect to other kids at school, and he's not so sure that his return was the best thing for anybody. Is there a way to find some semblence of normal again, for any of them?
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book so much was that Robin Benway's stories have a surface lightness with a surprising depth and heft once you get into the story. The narration is light and witty, the characters enjoyably snarky, but the themes that move through the book aren't light or fluffy. In this book, that theme is the impact of a
traumatic event on friends and on the community.
Oliver's disappearance, its immediate aftermath, and the years of just not knowing, have had a profound impact on Emmy. She thinks about it often, recalling the media circus, the police interviews, and her own seven-year-old's realization that the world is big and scary and nobody, not even your parents, can protect you.
Emmy's parents, while
loving, are overprotective to the point of stifling, and that's a direct result of Oliver's disappearance. She can't even tell them that she's surfing secretly and wants to go to UCSD instead of staying at home for community college. Oliver's return starts to dredge up all the feelings that led up to that overprotectiveness, and ultimately make it possible for Emmy break free of it.
Truly, I expected this to be a dual-POV book, which has been fashionable in YA so long as to become nearly a trope, especially for teen romances. Unlike some others, this would have worked pretty well in that structure. But the book is thoroughly Emmy's point of view, and it works awfully well that way too. She's the only one that Oliver feels normal around, and their growing intimacy allows him to tell his story to her.