Just Finished Reading: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway
To be published on June 23, 2015
by HarperTeen

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared. Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling. Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

My take: I love contemporary YA. But lately, you've seen me grumping on here about a trend in contemporary YA that I'm not so fond of: contemporary books with too much going on. It seems to me that some writers tackling contemporary YA worry that the genre is too mundane and that it needs to be jazzed up with paranormal twists or main characters with psychotic breaks or people who peel their faces off and are actually someone else (okay, I made that last one up, but still..)

I firmly believe that reality can be enough, that contemporary YA can be simple and real and still be able to capture readers' attentions and their hearts.

Thank you, Robin Benway, for writing a book that is Exhibit A in my argument. Emmy & Oliver has a simple premise: Emmy and Oliver are best friends. When Oliver is seven, he disappears. Ten years later, he comes back. That's it.

But with that simple premise, Benway is able to explore a multitude of issues and themes and do so in a way that was moving, funny, and memorable.  I love that Emmy & Oliver was able to explore all the different repercussions of Oliver's disappearance and return -- emotions and reactions that are like ripples on a pond. The parents of Oliver's friends (including Emmy's parents) clutched their children tighter after he vanished, so tightly that Emmy feels like a prisoner herself and has resorted to sneaking out to learn to surf and secretly applied to college. Oliver's mother, who looked tirelessly for her son, has also remarried and had twins. Emmy has made other friends, but the absence of Oliver has left a hole in her life that has never been filled.

When Oliver returns, everything has to be recalibrated: Oliver's family, Emmy's friendships and situation with her parents, and Emmy and Oliver's relationship. I was wondering whether this would be a friendship story or a friends-to-romance story and it could have gone either way, but I liked the way that it went. I loved the way family and friendship were portrayed -- real, funny, and sometimes messed-up.

Emmy & Oliver is one of my favorites of 2015 -- to me, it was a great example of everything a wonderful contemporary story can be.

If you've read it, let me know what you think in comments!


  1. Love and agree with your thoughts on the genre. I am so excited for this book. I hope I don't let such high expectations get in the way but I haven't read one bad review. I am glad it has a simple premise and then is just about the feelings and what not. Great review!

  2. Really enjoyed this one as well! :D

  3. Gah! I was avoiding this one. It seemed by the cover and title that it was going to be one of those cutesy, overhyped books that ends up falling flat but now I want to read it!

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    P.S. You're reading Jesse's Girl! Let me know what you think.

  4. I agree that the simplicity of this book is what makes it shine so much! I really really enjoyed it as well and I couldn't get enough of it.
    I'm glad you felt the same way as I did! :)
    Lovely review!

    1. Just read your review. We're twins today :)

  5. I really enjoyed this one too, the execution of the premise and their budding romance

  6. I've heard only beautiful things about this one and it's a fav of yours so it's going in my TBR for sure~ Thanks for the review Jen!!

  7. I seem to have made a horrible mistake in judging this one by its cover. I just assumed it would be another ordinary contemporary YA, and it seems to be anything but. From the sound of it, I'd enjoy this one very much.

  8. This one is high on my TBR list. I have heard nothing but great things about it!

  9. This is a book I have been wanting to get my hands on and am glad it's living up to my expectations. I agree a contemporary book can just be 'real and be great.

    Megan @ http://readingawaythedays.blogspot.co.uk

  10. That good, huh? *grinning excitedly* I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one, as I have read not ONE less-than-glowing review of it. And, sometimes, the majority is actually right :D

  11. I really did love this this one. I read it a while back and I just loved the storyline and who such a friendship and possible relationship got torn apart. You see that Emmy and Oliver haven't really changed that much either. So glad you loved this one. Great review, Jen!

  12. Yay, this audio is coming up next for me and I'm excited to see you loved it so much!

  13. So many awesome reviews for this one, I think I should start on it soon since I own a copy :) The cover is gorgeous as well, it's amazing how simple covers with fonts look. Awesome review! <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

  14. This is on my (large) pile of READ NEXT. Maybe I'll start it tonight, though. It sounds adorable.

  15. My co-blogger just posted a 5 star review for this, I'm happy to see that lots of people are loving it! I was debating picking this one up, but it sounds like I definitely need to now! Thanks for the review, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!

  16. I'm really looking forward to reading this book. It's been getting so much love, so of course I want to check it out, too. I like how Benway was able to give us more than what we all perceived from the synopsis.

  17. I adored this book! I loved the friendships and strong family elements and was surprised by how much this book made me think! Glad to see you loved it to!

  18. I have seen amazing review after amazing review for this book. That is it, I am finally going to read it. I had the ARC for ages and just kept putting it off, which I really regret doing now. This sounds so good and I really hope I end up loving it.


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