Review: EMMY AND OLIVER by Robin Benway

Title: Emmy and Oliver
Author: Robin Benway
Format: eARC
Pages: 352
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: 23rd June 2015
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Read this if you liked: To All The Boys I Loved Before, The Night We Said Yes, Anna and the French Kiss (and the books that follow)
Rating: 4/5
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?

I received an eARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

When I read that at the core of Emmy and Oliver was a child kidnapping, I'll admit I wasn't optimistic about it being all that romantic. However, I'd heard so much about it and the hype surrounding it so I really want to give it a go. I've been on a kick to read more contemporary this year, and I'm glad I gave this book a shot because all in all I really enjoyed it.

I've never read anything by Benway before, but I really enjoyed her writing. It was a fairly quick read; whenever I sat down with it, I managed to get through quite a few chapters at a time and it never felt like slog. The pace was good, especially coming from a book that was so up and down with its pace (you can read that review later this month...). On a day where I could just sit and read, I could have devoured the whole thing in one sitting. The descriptions are not too convoluted and Emmy's voice is one I could easily connect to - funny, real and not too poetic. And it is really funny. I laughed out loud quite a few times (especially the eyelash curler scene and the shark/Point Break comparisons).

I think the strength of the characters make this story. I loved Emmy, Drew and Caro as a unit and the different types of family they came from. Being the oldest of eight, I found it easiest to identify with Caro's situation (although I will hasten to add my parents didn't quit raising us after the fourth kid!). The friendship dynamic between the trio, and then when Oliver came along, was real and I felt really invested in their relationships and what would happen to them when graduation came along.

The characters that I found the most frustrating are the parents but it's difficult to really dislike them; their actions are a direct result of a really terrible situation that I can't really relate to. Oliver's kidnap affected the entire neighbourhood and in turn, affected the way the parents raised their children. I didn't necessarily agree with them. I could definitely understand their logic. After all, I'm not a parent and (thank God) I've never ever had to experience anyone close to me be taken. Benway does a really good job of presenting both sides of the argument, allowing us to empathise with both parties. I actually ended up feeling really sorry for Keith, Oliver's dad. He made a horrible mistake and was wrong, but I found my heart strings tugged the most when Oliver and his dad came face to face again.

The romance was sweet. I read other reviews that described it as a slow burn, but I didn't feel that way at all; it was like they sort of picked up where they left off aged seven, as if he had always been in her life - which in some ways the ghost of him had. It was all leading to it. It could have been cliched, but Benway kept it fresh, since Oliver had so many issues due to his kidnap, his relationships with his parents and his guilt over everything. It was cute, but I didn't feel like there was a lot of passion between them - which is fine. Not every love story has to be about tearing each others clothes off. This was about a lot more.

Ultimately this story is about friendship, which I really liked. It's nice to see a relationship that is about the two of them being friends as well as boyfriend and girlfriend. The only reason I rated this as a 4 and not a 5 is because it didn't blow me away. I didn't cry. Everything worked out nice and neatly, and I was satisfied and there's not a huge amount that I can pick holes in, but I guess I'm always waiting for a contemporary romance that's going to make have a book hangover and not want to read again for a week. Even writing this review was hard because I just didn't have any lasting feelings about it. I really liked it, it was well written, something different...but I think I wanted more.

What about you guys? Have you read it? Did you feel the same? Leave a comment below!