Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Title: When We Collided

Author: Emery Lord

Rating: 3 Stars

There is no doubt in my mind that When We Collided is a beautiful, important story—a milestone in YA, even. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I have extremely mixed feelings towards this novel.

The Good:
- Jonah, the youngest of the three older siblings in a family of six children, is an old soul at the age of seventeen. After the sudden death of his father, his mother has been tired and unresponsive, constantly crying and unable to take care of her family. It has fallen to Naomi, Silas, and Jonah to take care of their three younger siblings, Bekah, Isaac, and Leah. It is tiring, thankless work and all Jonah wants is for his mother to be a parent, again, so he can go back to worrying about classes and girls like the rest of his friends; so he can join the baseball team and think of a future outside of Verona Cove, California.

I loved Jonah. His grief over losing his father, the pain he carries within him, is heartbreaking and it’s impossible not to fall for him, especially when he’s constantly looking out for his siblings and continuing his passion of cooking, carrying on his father’s restaurant legacy. Jonah’s growth over the course of the novel is realistic and well-timed. I couldn’t get enough of his interactions with his siblings and Ellie, the daughter of his father’s best friend and business partner. Together, the two of them helped each other and the restaurant to evolve and I appreciated their friendship, sans romance. Easily, Jonah is the highlight of this novel—by far.

- Mental Illness. I give Lord immense credit for writing about mental illness in a respectful, well-researched, and nuanced manner. Whether it be Jonah’s confusion and acceptance as he realizes that his mother is depressed, Ellie’s discussion of her older brother’s battle against depression and his subsequent recovery, or Vivi’s own struggle with bipolar disorder, I found When We Collided to be realistic and honest. Vivi, especially, I think is written beautifully. Her point of view is full of lush, flowery prose; she’s the type of extrovert that makes everyone around her want to be in her orbit and it isn’t hard to enjoy her vivacious personality. But the highs and lows she experiences and the sudden turn-around from lucid to not-quite-there is shocking and makes an impact. It helps that though we know Vivi is battling life, we don’t know what she’s up against and, instead, get to experience it alongside Jonah and other people in Vivi’s life. Separately, both of these characters and their story arcs were strong, powerful messages.

The Not-So-Great:
- More. First and foremost, I have to admit to wanting more from this story on multiple fronts. We don’t hear much about Vivi’s friendships with her friends from back home, nor do we get to see her mother’s journey alongside her own. We also don’t get much of Jonah’s family once his mother is on the mend. It’s patched up a little too neatly on that front and in terms of Vivi, I found myself disappointed that her existence at Verona Cove is so wrapped up with Jonah. Where are her friends, her relationships with her co-worker, her thoughts about the people she has left behind in Seattle? Even for Jonah, though, where are his friends? Jonah and Vivi’s love story is so all-consuming but I wanted a broader picture of their lives, not just together but mostly apart.

- The Romance. I enjoyed this love story, I did, and I even understand why it’s necessary. If Jonah and Vivi had simply been friends then this story wouldn’t have had the impact it did. But the romance progressed quickly and simply felt…off. Perhaps it was meant to feel slightly unhealthy, though? Vivi and Jonah love and support one another but there are also moments where Vivi seems to manipulate Jonah or Jonah takes advantage of a situation presented to him. They aren’t bad people but their romance felt weird to me in so many scenes and though some of that is because of the mental illness Vivi lives with, it also felt like something more. Like I said, I liked this romance—it’s well-written and captures that summer whirl-wind feeling—but I couldn’t really get into much of the novel since the plot revolves around this romance and it wasn’t one I loved or particularly wanted to revisit.

There is a LOT of good in this novel, countered by just a few odd blips, but as someone who has loved Lord’s previous novels, I found myself disappointed that her latest wouldn’t be making my favorites shelves. I think this is a book a lot of readers will love, though, and I’m glad this message about mental illness is reaching a wider audience. For that reason alone, this novel is worth a read.


  1. I've been hearing a lot of good things about the depiction of mental illness in this one and how it feels real, not something exaggerated for fictional effect or cliched. It's too bad the romance felt a little off to you though! Like you said, that could have been the intention given what Vivi is battling, but still. Beautiful review as always Keertana!

  2. You had me at well researched. I hate it when they just lightly touch on an important subject and we are just supposed to ignore it. Although I do see me not liking the same parts you did (I like wrapped up, but not too easy). I'm also curious about the romance even if it didn't wow you. Yep, still curious. :) Brilly review.

  3. It's hard to love a story when the romance is just a little off for you. This does sound like a really interesting story with a lot going on. Nice to hear you enjoyed overall. Lovely review, Keertana! :)

  4. I am so glad that you enjoyed it, even if you didn't quite love it. And I completely understand where you're coming from - it's always difficult when a book is good, but it lacks the emotional connection it needs to make it great. Thanks for sharing Keertana and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  5. Thanks for your honest thoughts. It can be difficult to really like romances in these type of novels, especially if that's the main focus. I am glad that Lord focused on the nuance of depression and mental illness well. I do hope to check this one out soon.


  6. The story just does not pull me in this time, better listen to brain

  7. Ah yes difficult thing here, some very good and some more mixed points but I totally understand there

  8. Great review, as always! I know how challenging it is to write about a touchy subject such as mental illness. No wonder this book has mixed reviews. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it though you didn't love it as much.

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  9. This is not something I'd rush out to get, but if the library had it then yes

  10. I’m so familiar with this feeling when you want more, Keertana. When you wish that the author would explore something a little bit deeper, when you disappointed with too neat ending. Sorry to hear it happened with you here. I can also understand you about the romance. Though I like romance and don’t mind romance-centered books, lately I find myself gravitating toward books that have family and friendship aspects.

    I still haven’t read anything by Emily Lord, though definitely want to. After reading your review, I think I’ll probably start with Open Road Summer or The Start of Me and You and leave When We Collidedfor later. Great review, Keertana!


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