Author: Emery Lord
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr
Also by this author: The Start of Me and You, Open Road Summer, The Names They Gave Us, Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: April 5th 2016
Source: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
Seventeen year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life, and only one thing has ever changed: his father used to be alive, and now he is not. With a mother lost in a deep bout of depression, Jonah and his five siblings struggle to keep up their home and the restaurant their dad left behind. But at the start of summer, a second change rolls in: Vivi Alexander, the new girl in town.
Vivi is in love with life. Charming and unfiltered, she refuses to be held down by the medicine she's told should make her feel better. After meeting Jonah, she slides into the Daniels' household seamlessly, winning over each sibling with her imagination and gameness. But it's not long before Vivi's zest for life begins to falter. Soon her adventurousness becomes all-out danger-seeking.
Through each high and low, Vivi and Jonah's love is put to the test . . . but what happens when love simply isn't enough?
Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord
When We Collided is Emery Lord’s best book. I just have to lay this out there. It’s her tightest, most impassioned, most honest and raw piece of fiction, a book about a girl, Vivi, a seventeen year old who wants to live in the small moments in life and soak in all the beauty and fire of first love, but is hampered by her own mental health issues.
Vivi and her mother move to a small California town for a summer and there, Vivi meets Jonah, a boy who is responsible for more than he has a right to be. Jonah recently lost his father, and he’s holding down two jobs while taking care of two younger siblings and working with two older siblings to make sure his mother, who has fallen into depression, is still surviving.
Into this situation comes Vivi, who is full of light, and life, and beauty, who seems immeasurably confident and perfectly flighty. Jonah and Vivi quickly fall for each other, encouraging one another to pursue their dreams – him, cooking; her, art and fashion.
At first, it’s hard not to think of Vivi as the perfect embodiment of a manic pixie dream girl – she’s free, she’s daring, she’s quirky, and wow, does she teach Jonah how to let go and love a little. An MPDG exists to push along a brooding male protagonist, and that’s what she does.
…Except that Vivi is not an object, and Vivi refuses to be anyone’s form of wish fulfillment. Moreover, Vivi has her own goals, her own wishes, and her own needs, and it turns out that sometimes, she needs more than just the brooding, soulful young man to use as a project, even if she doesn’t know it.
If it seems I’m focusing more on Vivi than Jonah…well, I am. Even though Jonah has his own beautifully formed path to take in this book in bringing his family back together again and in being the glue (as well as being sexy and good and adorable *fans self*)…for me, this book was about Vivi. It’s about how she looks at things a certain way, how much she cares. And it’s about how every day, she walks to a cliff on the oceanside and tosses a little pill into the ocean, starting her on a path to exhilarating feeling.
The thing that Emery gets so right in this book is how viscerally and quickly your mind and heart can overtake you. The off-balance feeling that we start to see in Vivi as the summer progresses clashes and merges with her relationship with Jonah…love and instability become two sides of the same coin, taking Vivi much higher than she could ever expect, and then dropping her in free fall. The difference is whether she lands cushioned, or crashes so devastatingly that she doesn’t know how to pick herself up. It’s only in the landing where love and depression differ.
It’s a testament to Emery’s talent that this book never feels too heavy, that it goes into dark and painful places, a first-hand experience of a person dealing with a manic-depressive episode, but I never wanted to put it down. Even though I cried four times while reading it, saw myself in Vivi, saw my husband in Jonah…I would still read it again. And again. Because what Emery has created here is a world of beauty, of light, of love and small moments that remind us that the big moments of pain and hardship? They are just “a few hard weeks in a great, big life.”
Some characters in this book have mental health issues, yes, but it’s much more about the people we are and what we face. I know that sounds vague, but it’s not a book about mental health so much as it’s a book about trying new things, being tested, savouring the little things in front of us, and trying to make them better. And how, when the mental health demons get at us, we need the support and understanding and caring of our loved ones to bring ourselves out of it, to move on, and to understand what’s good for us.
Big Families: Jonah’s family consists of him, five brothers and sisters, and his mom. Even though I’m not part of a huge family, I love the dynamics of this one, how much they share in each other’s successes and challenges and play off one another – they just seem so REAL. At one point, Vivi narrates, “Here is something I never expected to feel: love at first sight for an entire family.” And really, I feel the same way.
Food As Art and Comfort: Holy cow, did Jonah’s inventions make me super hungry. Some of you might not know that I’m actually a huge foodie in real life and every single one of the descriptions of food was like, “ZOMG GIVE IT TO ME.” Throughout the book, food acts as both Jonah’s artistry, and also his way of giving comfort and safety, which I love.
Wabi-sabi: The way Vivi looks at life is so magical and gorgeous that it occasionally feels a bit like a cover for who she really is – the bad and the good. And yet there is something so simple and wonderful in the way she appreciates beauty. In the book, Vivi talks about the concept of wabi-sabi: “Wabi can mean rustic or stark or transient. Sabi is like…faded. Or fad-ing. Old. Together, I guess it’s like seeing beauty in simplicity and nature. In fleeting moments and even in decay.” Whether it’s the beautiful curly hair of her boss, or the pull of the ocean, Vivi dares to look up and appreciate every moment.
Quoteable Moments: It’s Emery, so you knew the writing was going to be stunning, right?
“I’ve prowled the dirtiest back alleys of sadness, okay? And I know what it’s like to fight for your life on those mean streets…I’m not scared of the dark places.”
“Even the constellations can see us now: we are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know.”
“This is going to ruin a few days. It might make some weeks harder. A few hard weeks in a great, big life. You can do that. We can do that.”
Book Theme Song:
This is a very, very special song to me, not least because it’s the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding. For those of you who don’t know Nick Drake, he’s one of the best musicians and guitarists ever, and a beautiful songwriter, who ended his life too quickly. Time Has Told Me is about finding someone who can help you get through it, the good and the bad, and the precious precariousness of that relationship, wbich I think both Vivi and Jonah feel.
Time has told me
You’re a rare rare find
A troubled cure
For a troubled mind
And time has told me
Not to ask for more
Someday our ocean
Will find its shore
So I’ll leave the ways that are making me be
What I really don’t want to be
Leave the ways that are making me love
What I really don’t want to love
Your tears they tell me
There’s really no way
Of ending your troubles
With things you can say
And time will tell you
To stay by my side
To keep on trying
’til there’s no more to hide
The Final Word
I said at the beginning that When We Collided is Emery’s best book. It is. It’s not my absolute favourite (that honour still goes to Open Road Summer), because unlike in her other two books, it doesn’t have as much of a focus on female friendship, which I think I really need from her books. But it is, without a doubt, her strongest, most honest, and most understanding book. It’s a book that clearly comes from her heart and moves you to understand a girl and boy who are just struggling to survive each day, and find wonder and comfort in one another.
WHEN WE COLLIDED comes out next week. Will you be picking up a copy and reading it immediately? (please please do this!) Are you a fan of Emery Lord? Have you read of Emery’s other books, Open Road Summer or The Start of Me and You? And even though it’s not entirely about mental health issues, have you read any other books with bipolar characters or characters dealing with depression? Hit the comments and let me know!