A girl loses her best friend when he’s kidnapped by his father at 7 and must cope when he returns 10 years later.
After constantly wondering about his fate for a decade, at first Emmy doesn’t know how to approach Oliver when he returns, but soon their former friendship becomes a romance. However, family difficulties persist. Oliver can’t fit in with his mother and her new family, feeling as though he’s been “kidnapped all over again.” Emmy’s parents have overprotected her to the extent that she lies to them about her surfing and even applying to college, triggering near hysteria in her mother when she is found out. Meanwhile, they also deal with their friends, who suffer more typical adolescent traumas. As the story progresses, Benway peels away the surface and digs down to the raw emotions the teens and their families feel, focusing on Emmy’s family as seen from the inside while watching Oliver’s family from the outside. She avoids depicting any deep psychological wounds that Oliver suffers, while indicating that those wounds exist. Instead, the story becomes more about the struggle between Emmy and her parents, who suffocate her with their irrational fears, than a study of deep emotional trauma.
As a portrait of the emerging adolescent, it engages, even if it gives the effects of the kidnapping on its victim short shrift. (Fiction. 12-18)