Read this if you're in the mood for: realistic contemporary YA, character-driven, romance, witty dialogue, friendships, strong supporting characters
Summary: Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?
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?
Read this if you like:
TWENTY BOY SUMMER, Sarah Ockler or anything by Sarah Dessen
Just like Ockler & Dessen, Benway is excellent at writing realistic friendships and novels that tackle serious emotion while still being lighthearted.
AUDREY, WAIT!, Robin Benway
If you enjoyed Benway's sense of humor in her debut, then you'll happily recognize it in the witty dialogue (and interior monologue) in EMMY & OLIVER.
The Rec: Though the plot is based on a Lifetime-movie-worthy childhood abduction and dramatic reunion ten years later, it speaks volumes of Benway's skill as a writer that this book feels normal and not at all overdone. Beyond the excellent sense of humor and realistic dialogue, I most loved EMMY & OLIVER because of the focus on complicated-but-healthy relationships. Emmy has really strong friendships with Caro & Drew (awesome, three-dimensional supporting characters), and she and Oliver have such a wonderful dynamic as they get to know one another again.
Also, points for parents being present and putting a realistic damper on the shenanigans the characters want to get into, which is rare in YA. I also liked that, though parents cause a lot of the drama, they aren't portrayed as villains — not even Oliver's father. EMMY & OLIVER is the kind of book where you get invested in the characters, and I'm happy to report that Benway's non-Lifetime-movie ending definitely left this reader satisfied.
The Caveat: I think some readers might find Emmy's parents are unrealistically strict and/or unrealistically oblivious to Emmy's secret surfing habit, but it worked for me!
You should read this because: If you love books with a wry, witty sense of humor that explore complicated relationships between characters you want to befriend, EMMY & OLIVER is for you!
Recommendation by: Donna