Sunday, January 10, 2016

Emmy & Oliver, by Robin Benway

Ten years ago, Emmy and Oliver were next door neighbors and good friends.  But then Oliver was abducted by his estranged father and he disappeared.  In the aftermath, Oliver's mother remarried and raised two new children.  Emmy's parents, traumatized by their neighbor's loss, grew protective of their only child.  And Emmy was left wondering what had happened to her friend and, as she grew older, also wondering how she was ever going to spread her wings within her parents' tight confines.  Then, one day, during Emmy's senior year, Oliver comes home....

The set up is a bit melodramatic and the ending exploits some of that potential, but overall the book is a lot more thoughtful than one would expect.  The strength of Benway's storytelling is in realizing that both Emmy and Oliver have compelling stories to tell, which are interrelated but different enough to make the reading interesting.    I enjoyed the process that the kids went through, though, growing an understanding of what the ten year gap meant to them.  But the book didn't really seem to me to reach its potential.  Having recognized the potential of the material, Benway doesn't seem to know where to take it.  Lots of great ideas are introduced, but simply lie there.  And, as often is the case in YA, the parents, who fill the usual antagonist roles here, are underutilized and perfunctory.

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