When We Collided by Emery Lord (YA)

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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.

When We Collided is told very well through a dual narrative of characters with seemingly opposite traits and opinions. It takes the old summer romance story and brews it up with some darker and lighter issues to create a wonderfully realised piece of writing.

Vivi is the absolute whirling dervish to Jonah’s more reserved teenager. She enjoys having attention and living life and doesn’t apologise for being very her. Her arrival in the coastal town of Verona Cove is the catalyst for the story and every scene she’s not in seem to be missing her energy, indicating what a presence she is on the page. There are allusions to something else going on with Vivi from the start, and the reader is prepared for “something” to be revealed, seemingly from her permanent life back in Seattle.

Jonah Daniels is going through an unfortunate rapid transition from boy to man as he catches up with the death of his father and the subsequent absence of his mother in his family’s life. He and his older siblings are left to pick up the pieces as their mother retreats to the grief and isolation of her bedroom in the months following her husband’s death.

Jonah is shy and reserved, but has an instant connection with Vivi, who is unashamed in her expression of affection for him almost immediately. She also takes to his family like a duck to water, seemingly oblivious or ignorant to the trauma overshadowing them.

He both thrives on and struggles to keep up with Vivi’s general joie de vivre and energy. They share bickering arguments and passionate scenes. The narrative becomes more frantic as it becomes apparent that Vivi is struggling to maintain her levels of energy and becomes more and more frazzled. There’s a real sense of tension and build-up as the writing becomes more frenzied as it hits top gear. When the tension does break, it’s effective and genuine.

Emery Lord should be applauded here for her brilliant and eye-opening portrayal and exploration of a complicated mental health issue, which otherwise might easily have been simplified. Instead of focusing on the issue as a focal point, her message is clearly to see the amazing potential that is in everyone and to overcome the stigma attached to certain mental health issues.

I especially enjoyed a scene towards the end, where the title is fully realised. When We Collided is a real treat to read, from the flowing, expressive pose of Vivi to the timeless nature of the central story.

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