Monday, February 27, 2017

Review of When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided
We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

When I first heard about When We Collided, I was surprised, but in a good way.  Lord’s previous novels had both had serious heavy moments, but it felt like When We Collided might put some of the serious subject matter more in the foreground.  I was eager to see how Lord would handle this, and I was particularly intrigued when I heard that the story would deal with mental health.  When We Collided is a stunningly written novel about teens going through some of the most difficult phases of their adolescences.

Vivi struggles with bipolar disorder, and after a particularly bad year, she and her mother have moved to Verona Cove, California.  Jonah and his family already live in Verona Cove, where they are struggling with the recent passing of Jonah’s father and the question of how the family business will stay afloat.  The two of them meet when Jonah’s little sister, Leah, invites Vivi to the house for dinner, and Jonah makes a frankly delicious sounding pizza.  It doesn’t take long before Vivi and Jonah find themselves falling for each other in a deeply passionate and vibrant way.

All of the characters in this story are extremely well developed.  As I read When We Collided, I felt like I was part of Jonah’s family, or that the tensions that Vivi and her mom had could have been between my own mother and me.  Verona Cove was so well drawn that I could easily visualize each setting the characters were in.

Lord draws some strong parallels between Vivi and Jonah’s family.  Jonah has a huge, happily family whereas Vivi doesn’t know who her father is.  Lord is also careful to address the different ways that mental illness manifests.  Bipolar feels like something Vivi has struggled with for a long time, and the mental illness struggles within Jonah’s family feel triggered by his father’s death.  I appreciate Lord addressing that mental illness doesn’t always take the same form or happen for the same reasons.

While this story is filled with the charm of Verona Cove, Vivi’s energy, and the warmth of Jonah’s family, there is an edge throughout the story.  Throughout the novel, it feels as to though things could go horribly wrong at any moment.  Lord never shies away from this feeling but instead addresses it straight on.  I know some readers didn’t care for the ending of this story, but I loved that it didn’t hold back.

When We Collided deals with mental illness, grief, and romance in ways that are honest.  This isn’t just a story about how being in a relationship can change your life, it’s a story about how taking care of one’s own mental health is necessary to help keep healthy relationships.  Never for one moment is this story didactic.  It is about people who fall, everything one can go through while falling, and the afterwards. 

Disclosure: I borrowed an ARC of this book from a friend, but I also purchased a hard copy once it came out.

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