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Emmy & Oliver
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emmy & Oliver is a contemporary realistic novel about teens who resume a friendship -- and then a relationship -- 10 years after an unexpected separation. Robin Benway's teen romance explores some tough issues (parental kidnapping, overprotective parents, coming out) but isn't too intense. There is occasional strong language ("f--k," "s--t"), some passionate make-out sessions, and a few scenes of underage drinking. Mature middle schoolers and high schoolers could use it a launching pad for frank discussions with their parents about their passions, interests, and plans.
What's the story?
As young children, EMMY & OLIVER were neighbors, best friends, and puppy-love crushes, but everything changed when Oliver's father kidnapped him. Oliver's mother grieved but eventually remarried and had more children. Emmy's parents turned into overprotective hawks, and she was left with an Oliver-size hole in her heart. Ten years later, when Oliver is finally found, he returns to their small California hometown a completely different person -- and the worst part is he doesn't completely remember his old friends. But even after a decade, Emmy feels drawn to the boy she once called her best friend, and slowly they forge an intense but fragile bond.
Is it any good?
Robin Benway's coming-of-age novel is a poignant exploration of first love between two teens still coping from a traumatic childhood event. It excels both at humorous, snappy dialogue and substantive reflection on getting through emotional challenges. Although the book tackles several serious issues, Benway keeps the language and story line accessible for young adult readers. Emmy gets Oliver in a way no one else can under the circumstances, and he encourages her not to hide her "true" self (an avid surfer with hopes to go away for college) from her parents. He knows how devastating secrets can be and how they distance you from those you love.
Obviously, most teens won't understand the nuances of what it means to have been kidnapped by a parent and not even know it for 10 years, but many teens will relate to the idea of divorce changing the way parents deal with you (not to mention each other) and how blended families can occasionally feel isolating to the kids from a previous marriage. And everyone, no matter how old, has felt the heartache of a beloved childhood friendship cut short by an unexpected move. What would've happened if that person had stayed or, as is the case with Oliver, returned years later? Benway is a talented writer who keeps readers engaged with this emotionally satisfying, if occasionally heartbreaking, tale about a beautiful friendship that's lost and then found.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of realistic fiction about teens with serious personal issues. How is this story, about some heavy themes -- parental kidnapping, kids who repeatedly lie to their parents, friends coming out to their parents -- realistic?
What do you think about the nature of Emmy and Oliver's friendship? Was the progression to romance believable? Why do you think intense romances are so common in young adult literature?
Discuss childhood friendships and how they affect you as a teen/high schooler. Why can the friendships we make in early childhood have such an impact on our lives?
- Author: Robin Benway
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: June 23, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.