My edition: Paperback, published on 16 July 2015 by Simon & Schuster Children's, 340 pages.
Description: 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?
Emmy and Oliver have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Born just a day apart they live next door to one another and they can't imagine not spending every day together; in school, at home and even just before they go to bed as they share a secret message by flicking their bedroom lights on and off. But one day, when they're 6 years-old, Oliver is picked up by his father from school and he disappears from Emmy's life. Trouble had been brewing beneath the surface for a long time, but it had been beyond Emmy and Oliver's young minds to comprehend, and so neither saw the danger in Oliver's father picking him up just before the long weekend. But when school starts back up and Oliver's father hasn't dropped him off, the adults realise something is really wrong.
Oliver has been kidnapped and despite years of police and neighbours searching for him, and desperate pleas from his mother, he isn't found. Until one day, 10 years after that fatal day, Oliver returns home out of the blue. Emmy has never forgotten about her best friend from childhood and so is thrilled when he comes back. But he isn't the same person he was all those years prior; he barely remembers Emmy and his friends from school. Instead returning 'home' feels like the exact opposite to Oliver, as it means leaving behind his life in New York, and the parent who has taken care of him for as long as he can remember. Can Oliver readjust to a life with his mother, who is now remarried and has twin girls, and his childhood best friend Emmy, who is still living next door? Or is this when everything truly starts to fall apart?
Every once in a while a memorable novel comes along that defies its genre by not restricting itself to the status quo and adding a whole new unique layer to what is already a compelling story. Emmy & Oliver is one such a book. On the surface it may look like an average, though very cute, young adult contemporary coming-of-age romance, but there is so much more to it than that. It explores a subject matter not often tackled within YA, but does it in a way that the focus is not on what differentiates it but rather on what makes it familiar; creating a far more engaging and realistic tale than if it had been a book just about Oliver's kidnapping and the torturous aftermath for all characters involved.
The characters were sublime, particularly Emmy and Oliver, who each represented a completely different side to the horrific event that defined both their lives ever since. While for Emmy and every one else in town, the coming home of Oliver meant finally being able to close that chapter and move on, author Robin Benway doesn't take the easy way out with an unrealistic happily ever after, instead she explored the complicated feelings and actions of Oliver, who understandably so is still very much messed up about what happened to him and the closure for those around him is only another chapter in his own torturous tale. It makes the novel incredibly compelling, unexpected and most of all unique.
Not a rehash of yet another fantastical YA romance, Emmy & Oliver is really special and incredibly well thought-out and written. I wasn't familiar with Robin Benway's books before receiving this one for review, but I'll definitely be checking them out now.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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Many thanks to Maximum Pop! Books for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review!