Imagine being seven years old and finding out that your best friend had disappeared without a trace. How would your childhood be affected? Now imagine that friend returned ten years later. Would you still have anything in common? That's the story of Emmy and Oliver:
The last time Emmy sees Oliver is on their forty-third day of second grade.—Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (HarperCollins / HarperTeen, 2015, p. 1)
Oliver is her next-door neighbor and her friend. They were born in the same hospital on the same day: July 7—7/7. She thinks she pretty lucky to have a friend who lives next door and shares a birthday with her. She can just visit him any old time she wants, but not all the time because sometimes Oliver goes to his dad's house on the weekends.
- Setting: coastal southern California; modern times
- Circumstances: Emmy and Oliver are best friends until Oliver fails to return home after a long weekend with his father; the police call the disappearance a kidnapping. Over the years, Emmy and her friends still remember Oliver, wishing he would come back. In the meantime, Emmy's parents have become overprotective, and Emmy struggles to find her independence and to follow her passions. Oliver's mother never gives up hope that her boy will be returned, but eventually she remarries and begins a new family. Ten years later, Oliver is found, living in New York City. His father flees, but Oliver is returned to his mother to finish out his senior year. Is it possible to build a bridge between past and present?
- Characters: Emmy and her parents; Emmy's friends Caro and Drew; Oliver and his parents and stepfamily; various other neighbors and classmates
- Genre: YA contemporary
- Themes so far: friendship, family, survival, trauma, finding ways to reach understanding
- What I like so far: The teens have authentic voices and concerns. The parents' reactions to the presumed kidnapping, the empty years, and the return, also seem realistic. Although I'm sure romance is on at least Emmy's mind, the story (so far) is less on that and more on trying to find a way to recapture what was lost.
- Two perspectives: There are two sides to this tale, though the story is told through Emmy's eyes. For Emmy and her friends, the crisis is over. They are ready and eager to welcome Oliver home; they remember every little thing of their early childhood and can't wait to pick up where they left off. But for Oliver, a new crisis is starting. He has been taken from his East Coast home and is now living with and among people he barely remembers. He doesn't know how to meet the expectations of friends, family, and the community, not to mention his new stepfamily. The story is played out against these two conflicting perspectives.
- Things to know: This could be a dark book with very tough themes, but Benway softens the plot with witty dialogue and appropriate humor. My prediction is that Emmy and Oliver help each other grow and prepare for the all the possibilities of their futures. I'm not yet sure if they will leave high school as boyfriend and girlfriend or as BFFs, but either way, I'm enjoying their journey.