02 July 2015
Emmy & Oliver
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
If I were into romantic stories, I think this one would have taken the cake for me. As it is, I still enjoyed it even if it did get a little too will they/won't they towards the middle.
Emmy and Ollie have been friends practically since they were born. They were babies in the hospital together, and they grew up living next door to one another with their bedroom windows facing. They were destined to be best friends forever, and perhaps even more. But at the age of seven, right after Ollie has circled on a piece of paper that perhaps he likes Emmy as more than just a friend, Ollie disappears. Kidnapped by his father after his parents decide to divorce, Ollie is ripped from Emmy's life. And though Emmy always hopes for Ollie to one day return, she isn't ready when he actually does, ten years later.
Though I have not had quite such a traumatic personal experience, I've had a milder version that's similar. My best friend growing up with a member of the opposite sex and born three days after me. We didn't live next door to each other, or even in the same neighborhood, but we went to day care together. And though we never confessed on a note passed in class that we liked each other as maybe more than friends, I did have a little crush on him. My Ollie wasn't kidnapped by his father, but he was rezoned and sent to a different school around the age of seven. And I was just about seventeen again by the time I saw him (since this was back before the days of cell phones and texting and social media) and our social circles crossed again.
My experience was different than how things ended up for Emmy and Ollie, but I remember how different we both were by the time we started seeing each other again more than once every year or two. We weren't seven year old kids anymore, and we'd both grown into our personalities, which had evolved and grown up over time. That's one of the fundamental issues in this book of Emmy and Ollie's reconnection. Not only does Ollie have to try to reconnect with his old life and deal with the lies he'd been living for the past ten years, he also has to adjust to the fact that everyone seems to exact him to be the same exact seven year old kid he was when he went missing. And of course, ten years later, he isn't anymore. It's a powerful thought, and I think Benway handles it well.
Sure, there are a few parts of this novel that felt a little unrealistic and some dialogue/instances that felt a little pushed/staged, but all and all I think it is fair to say that Benway charmed my pants off with this story, especially the first half. And while I think she lost a little bit of the charm and wit and poetic style in the second half, she still puts together a well written novel in its entirety. I've never heard of Benway before, but for certain I will be checking out more of her stories.