I really liked Open Road Summer, Emery Lord’s first novel. And I loved The Start of Me and You. But I whatever the next step in positive emotion is (am obsessed with, love love love, couldn’t put down, etc.) her newest novel When We Collided. Seriously, I started it in the morning expecting to read for thirty minutes at most and instead read whenever I got the chance all day, finishing around 2am that night. If I had to write a review in five words or less I’d write. So romantic. So heartbreaking. Everything. But I get more than five words to write this review, so I’ll expand upon those thoughts at least a little bit.
Vivi is staying in a small, coastal California town for the summer. Jonah has lived there his whole life, but is trying to hold his family together after the tragic death of his father. Vivi is exuberant, flighty, and adventurous. Jonah is stable, dependable, and shy. They are both exactly what the other person needs … until, maybe, they both need more.
This sounds vague, because I don’t want to give too many spoilers away. Especially because the reveal of information is expertly handled by Emery Lord. What I don’t think is too spoilery to say is that this is one of my favorite YA books that addresses mental illness head on.
One reason for this is that instead of being an issue book that also has a romance, it seems more like a romance for characters that deal with mental illness. This isn’t a diagnosis story. The mental illness isn’t portrayed through a quirky/inspirational/adorkable lens … as it sometimes can be in teenage stories (or adult stories too, for that matter). Another thing I really liked is that even in this small community almost all the characters either have their own mental health problems or have a friend or family member described dealing with these issues. With estimates that anxiety and depression affect at least 1 in 5 people, this decision to show more than one experience with mental illness made sense.
The book is VERY romantic. It’s also hard. It jockeys between Vivi and Jonah’s points of view as they try to figure each other out. But their relationship leads to a lot of self discovery as well.
I keep trying to articulate what I liked about the book, because that is what people do in book reviews, but a lot of what I liked can’t be articulated. From the first description of why Vivi wears red lipstick I was hooked. Also the slip’n’slide scene. Also black cherry pie. Also the vespa and the beach and the light house. Swoon.
As you can probably guess, this book has firmly solidified Emery Lord as a must-read author for me.
***I really liked this blog post of the author explaining her approach to the story. I know there has been some controversy around the book and that there will be many different opinions, but for me this book resonated and felt very responsible.