First Lines: The last time Emmy sees Oliver is on their forty-third day of second grade.
This was the kind of book that once I read the summary, I knew I had to read this. It was just the right kind of plot that I fell in love with the character just from the book jacket. Ever had those? I just knew I was going to be a sucker for it.
Since the day Oliver disappeared, Emmy’s life has been hard. Oliver was her best friend and neighbor…and how her parents smother her to try to keep her safe. At 17, her curfew is 9 PM and her parents would kill her if they knew she surfed in the dangerous, shark-infested ocean (as they see it). As suddenly as he disappeared, Oliver comes home. But he’s not the same as Emmy remembers. For years, he thought his dad was the good guy. He didn’t realize that his dad had kidnapped him and painted his mother to be the bad guy so he wouldn’t look for her. At one time, Emmy and Oliver were inseparable. After all this time, can their friendship survive?
This was a really cute read. There were so many different tones this story could have had. It could’ve been bitter or angry, but since it’s told from Emmy’s perspective, it retains this hopeful optimism. I really liked that. (When the tone of a book turns bitter or vengeful, I swear I can feel it crawling under my skin. It’s the most uncomfortable thing.)
It was sweet to see everything from Emmy’s perspective. For some, having your friend kidnapped when you’re 7 could make you jaded. But Emmy is just so eternally hopeful that Oliver will return that his homecoming feels like all of her wishes come true. …Until she sees Oliver again and realizes that he’s not the 7 year old boy she once knew. He grew up too. I thought that moment was crucial for Emmy’s character, where her optimism and wishes crash into reality for just a moment.
The plot. I thought it felt incredibly real, like I could see this story on the late night news or one of those “Faith In Humanity” stories. After all this time, Emmy truly does still think of Oliver as her friend, even though she doesn’t know who he is anymore. When he returns, she wants to get to know him. But Oliver’s dealing with a lot of issues, not the least of which is realizing that the life he lived for 10 years was a huge lie.
But it’s totally the characters that win the day. They’re so real and so solidly awesome that they come alive. And I’m not just talking about Emmy and Oliver. It’s also Emmy’s best friends Drew and Caro (short for Caroline because “Caroline” is just too many syllables) and the adults. In YA a lot of the time, parents are either absent, 2-dimensional, or way out of touch. So it was really refreshing to have Emmy and Oliver’s parents be realistic. Sure, they have moments of being out of touch, but I felt as much empathy for them as for the teenagers. They do care, they are present, and they make a valiant attempt to talk to their children.
Overall, it’s a very cute read. It was easy to fall for Emmy and Oliver.