Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

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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’s not. Now Jonah must numbly take care of his family as they reel from their tragedy. Cue next change: Vivi Alexander, new girl in town.

Vivi is in love with life. A gorgeous and unfiltered hurricane of thoughts and feelings. She seems like she’s from another planet as she transforms Jonah’s family and changes his life. But there are always consequences when worlds collide.

I picked up When We Collided because I wanted something to read for five minutes, and ended up putting it down about twenty minutes (or three chapters) later, knowing I had to read more. The very first chapter was probably a little on the slow side, as all it really did was introduce one of the protagonists, Vivi, but the pace picked up considerably since Jonah was introduced, and it didn’t slow down from there.

The characters and the beautiful world that Emery Lord created were probably my two favourite things about this book. On the blurb, Vivi was described as a ‘gorgeous, unfiltered hurricane of thoughts and feelings’, and I think that was the perfect way to describe her. Vivi swept into Jonah’s life, transformed his summer, and changed his way of thinking by encouraging him to take more risks. She was bold and confident and unashamed, and I loved this because often female characters with these traits or strong personalities are either stereotypical mean girl cheerleaders who we are encouraged to hate, or are portrayed as masculine. Vivi was certainly stereotypically feminine in the way she dressed and in her love of craft and art, but she was also vibrant and independent, and you learnt to expect the unexpected from her. Jonah was nowhere near as loud and out there as Vivi, but he had a quiet sort of confidence that Vivi helped to bring out. His family also leapt off the page, and despite the fact that there were a lot of siblings, each had a distinctive personality. However, the characters were not perfect – Vivi and Jonah argued because sometimes he thought she was reckless, whereas she saw it as him being uptight – and this made them even better and more well-rounded and believable. For me, the characters were definitely a highlight of the story.

Another thing I loved, as mentioned, was the world Emery Lord made, and the way language was used to create a beautiful, almost magical air throughout the story. I loved the images used, and the way everything was described, from Jonah’s intricate meals to the colour and design of their surroundings and Vivi’s outfits. All of this made you completely immersed in the story. Much like with the characters, the story came to life easily.

Here is a warning that a potential spoiler is coming up, so you might want to skip this paragraph if you haven’t read it. As a character, Vivi was sometimes a little over the top, and the way they fell in love did occasionally seem a little fantastical. However, at the end of the story, it was revealed that Vivi had bipolar disorder, and hadn’t been taking the medication which would prevent the mania section of the cycle, and this explained some of the actions which seemed strange even when considering her personality. I liked that Vivi’s mental health condition wasn’t allowed to define her, and that she didn’t lose hope. Also, I thought it was good that it showed just how beneficial professional help was for Vivi, and how she tried to help Jonah’s mother too. Even though the ending wasn’t a particularly happy, it was definitely hopeful, and I think that that was the most important thing the ending could have been.

The characters and the nature of their romance was improbable, but it definitely worked well, and so I would definitely recommend When We Collided, particularly for those who love beautiful prose and books that recognise that things don’t have to be perfect for there to be optimism for the future.

When We Collided was published on the 5th of April 2016 in the USA and on the 7th of April 2016 in the UK by Bloomsbury. You can find out more on Goodreads here, or purchase a copy on Amazon here.

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