I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Emmy & Oliver by Ribin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 23, 2015
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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?
If I could describe this book in one word, it would be quiet.
Yes, Emmy & Oliver is something that I would call a “quiet contemporary”. I’m not even sure where that came from, or if it’s a thing, or something I made up on a whim, but I know deep inside that this is the best word for it. I try to think of another description, but there is nothing that fits as this. Emmy & Oliver is meaningful, thoughtful, and like I said, quiet.
How is it so, you ask? I’ve read a number of contemporaries over the years, many of them involving issues and concepts teenagers face during their youth, experiences that mirror our own and lessons that are valuable to us, too. But while that is so, there are times when it feels like the situation those characters are in are something that I don’t really see myself getting into; as if it feels like there is still a sense of detachment somehow.
But Emmy & Oliver is different, in a sense, and I don’t even know how to say why. There is something so down-to-earth with the way it is written. There is no unnecessary or explosive or superficial drama among the characters. There is a “peaceful” atmosphere going on despite the big elephant of sadness in the room. In this book, characters go to school, go back home, do what teenagers do, eat what teenagers eat, fret over college applications – things that are 100% real to us – and it doesn’t feel tedious at all. There is even an endearing quality to it, a realness that you know is genuine. It feels eerily human-like in a way that this you see this happening to yourself, or to your next-door neighbor, or to your friend down the street.
I guess, in short, it is not pretentious at all. There are no characters who spout deep and complex sentences in an attempt to swoon the MC or the reader. It’s genuine to the very bone, especially the dialogue. I even think the dialogue is the best part of this story, because the way they talk to each other and the things they say and the things they do are so, so, so real. This is why I say it is quiet, because most of the time, our lives are quiet, too (unless you’re a big hot shot in loud field like Hollywood, I guess!), and it really captured that ambiance and atmosphere in the setting, in the writing, in the characters, and in the dialogue.
TL;DR: it’s one of the most natural contemporaries I’ve ever read. Read it to believe it, folks.
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