{Amy Reviews} When We Collided by Emery Lord

Posted April 25, 2016 by Amy in Reviews / 3 Comments

{Amy Reviews} When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided

by Emery Lord
Pages: 352
Published on April 5th 2016
by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Goodreads

Also by this author: Open Road Summer, The Start of Me and You, Open Road Summer, The Names They Gave Us

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.

4 Stars

I’ve been so excited for this book since the moment I heard of it. I love all of Emery Lord’s books and while When We Collided isn’t my favorite (it’s hard for me to love anything more than my first read by an author) I’m convinced this is her best work thus far. The prose is flawless, the plot complicated, and it’s honest and raw in a way that reverberates in the marrow of your bones. It’s about a girl, Vivi, desperate to live in the magic of each moment of her life but held back by her own illness and Jonah, a boy so weighed down by grief and responsibility that he can’t even see the magic of the moments around him. What’s unique about this specific work by Lord is the way it tackles and addresses family, where her previous books really leaned into friendship. I read this entire book in one sitting.

The setting is perfect- a small, sleepy California coastal town that is almost a family in and of itself. Comprised of “townies” and “vacationers,” there’s a clear distinction between insiders and outsiders. Insiders know what’s up, know what’s going on, and are trying their best to serve their little town and its inhabitants as best they can. They’re kind, welcoming, and caring. A family in the broadest sense of the word- people who look out and care for each other.

We drop Vivi and her mother into this situation. Flighty, silly, over the top Vivi, who we know from the first chapter has decided to stop taking her medication. Vivi’s mother is an artist and throughout the book it becomes clear she’s far from a perfect parent. She’s absent from the daily workings of her daughter’s life, missing or choosing to ignore giant clues and signs that Vivi is spinning out of control. Additionally, Vivi’s mother refuses to tell her anything about her father. But they have each other and to her credit, Vivi’s mom is there for Vivi to cling to when she needs her most. Vivi’s mom is caring and supportive and genuinely wants what is best for her daughter, even if she doesn’t understand what that is.

Vivi’s small family is perfectly juxtaposed with Jonah’s huge family. Jonah, the third of six, is helping to run his loud, messy, over the top household. His father has recently died from a heart attack and his family is still reeling from this sudden, tragic loss. His mom, unable to overcome her grief, is able to contribute next to nothing to the caring of her children and her oldest children step in to pick up her slack. But not without cost and not without heartache.

But then, something beautiful and weird and exactly true to life happens- those distinct family lines, those circles those families drew around themselves, begin to morph and change and collide. Vivi explodes into Jonah’s house and she begins to fall in love with a family. And they fall right back in love with her. The town, with its sweet and matronly diner owner and quiet and prickly sheriff, also begin to embrace Vivi. But you also see how they care for Jonah and his family- the phone call from the man who owns the hardware store. The generous gifts from the community to help renovate the restaurant. The way that this town comes around to celebrate these two people, and by extension, their nuclear families speaks to a truth we all know- you can make your own family. You can choose who you invite to your table.

That’s not to say the situation is perfect. Even while Jonah and Vivi fall deeper for each other, they each have their own struggles to overcome. Vivis struggles are more clearly defined with her bipolar diagnosis and her abrupt decision to stop taking her medication. Jonah’s is less obvious but his inability to push through his grief, and to deal with his mother’s depression still teach us the same lesson: no one gets better on their own. Those families we get to define, they are a part of the healing process. We need them.

It’s a testament to Emery’s style that the book never veers off too heavy, never feels like an after school special on mental illness. It feels like real life because it is real life for so many people. All the good and bad are rolled up together like a ball of string. I loved this quote close to the end of the book from Vivi’s mother:

“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.”


Bad days do not make a bad life. And with the family you choose, sitting at the table with good food, you can build a good life.

There were still some aspects of the characters that I had a hard time connecting to. Vivi, even medicated and fully herself, is still not someone I would want to spend time with. She’s selfish and a dreamer and doesn’t consider the feelings of the people around her. The only way Jonah knows how to love is to take care and his affection for Vivi looks a lot like how he treats his youngest sister. But Vivi’s not a project and she refuses to be treated as such.

Overall, Emery Lord’s passion bleeds through these pages in an undeniable way. When We Collided is just like life- full and messy and loud and sometimes sad and hard. But still beautiful. Always beautiful.


Are you also a fan of Emery Lord? Have you read any of her other books? Have you read any other books with bipolar characters dealing with depression? Let me know in the comments below!

About Emery Lord

Emery Lord is a 20-something Midwestern girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close.

She lives in Cincinnati in a 100 year-old pink row house with her BFF/husband, a closet full of dresses, and lots of books. If karaoke-ing in grocery store aisles or guzzling coffee while impulse shopping were illegal, Emery would be writing her overemotional YA books from jail. Also, she makes up words sometimes. Like combustibly.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, her first YA novel, is out now with Bloomsbury. Her second, The Start of Me & You, will be released March 31, 2015.

Tags: , , , ,

Like what you see? Enter your email here to get Quite the Novel Idea directly in your mail box. Great, huh?

Enter your e-mail address below to receive new posts directly in your inbox!

3 responses to “{Amy Reviews} When We Collided by Emery Lord

  1. ‘Beautiful and weird and exactly true to life?’ YES! I’m so glad you felt this way about When We Collided! I’m definitely on the same page with you about it. True to life is probably the best description for it!
    Amazing characters and so many things to say about mental health, family, everything. I just want to go back to reread this now. Great review, Amy!

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.