Review | Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

4 cupcakes

“Well, that’s growing up, isn’t it?” my dad said. “You don’t always have to know. And things aren’t always fair. You just have to keep moving forward. A step in one direction.”

I’ll admit that Emmy & Oliver is a book that I picked up entirely for the cover. I went in expecting a cute romance, and instead got a coming of age story set in a small town. It’s about growing up and finding your path in life, and Benway perfectly balances heartfelt and sweet moments with moments of heartbreak.

Emmy & Oliver explores all kinds of relationships: friendships, family, and romantic. I loved how involved and present the parents were, and the evolution of Emmy’s relationship with her overprotective parents, in particular, was very positively depicted even in the midst of Emmy’s frustrations. I especially enjoyed the friendship dynamic between Emmy, Drew, and Caro – it was honest, authentic, and a lot of fun. And, of course, the tentative friendship turned something more relationship between Emmy and Oliver was very sweet. I appreciated that their relationship took time to form, and was based on mutual understanding and trust.

Overall, Emmy & Oliver is a beautifully written, heartfelt exploration of love in all its forms and the nature of growing up.

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Book Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy… or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world’s premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it’s three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she’s attending a private school with hundreds of “mean girl” wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school’s elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat… all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world’s greatest spies don’t have a mission plan for love.

4 cupcakes

“That’s the second rule of being a spy: Be beige. Be beiger than beige. Be as average as possible. Be like the cashiers in your grocery store. Could you describe them? Chances are, no. Did you see them? Of course. Do you know their names, even if they were wearing name tags? Probably not. It’s like that.”

Also Known As was almost nothing like what I expected: instead of expert sleuthing and espionage worthy of James Bond films, the actual “spy stuff” was left until the very end of the story. And yet, despite the fact that the majority of the story takes place in a high school setting, I absolutely loved it.

One of Also Known As‘ biggest strengths is its characters. All of the characters that appeared in the story had a distinct personality and voice, making it very easy to become completely absorbed in their world. And there’s no disappearing parent syndrome to be found here – Maggie’s parents are very active in her life and, although they haven’t really had to do the whole “parenting thing” until now, they are more than willing to learn alongside Maggie.

Maggie, herself, is hilarious. She’s sarcastic, clever, and incredibly loyal. More than that, though, she’s so real: despite the fact that she’s a teenage spy (and an adept one at that!) she has the same insecurities and fears as many other high schoolers. Making friends and attending classes is completely new to her, making her slight blunders and missteps incredibly convincing.

Maggie’s new friend, Roux, completely stole the show whenever she was in a scene. She’s loud, quirky, dramatic, and one of the cutest drunks I’ve ever seen. I especially like that there was no slut shaming, given that Roux has fallen out of all of her social circles after cheating with her former friend’s boyfriend.

And then there’s Jesse Oliver. It’s no surprise that Maggie would fall for the “assignment,” but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed his character. He’s nothing like the “bad boy” we’re introduced to in the Collective’s files; instead, he’s sweet, trusting, and effortlessly likeable. His only fault is that he falls for Maggie a bit too easily – but thankfully it isn’t exactly instalove and, given how endearing Maggie’s personality is, you can’t really blame the boy.

Overall, Also Known As was an adorable, fluffy read that had me smiling the entire time. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Robin Benway writes next!