Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Publication Date: April 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 356 (eARC)
Source: From Publisher For Review
Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I want to start off this review by saying that I think this book is really important due to its portrayal and exploration of mental health. After reading the story within its pages, I am very honored to have my name mentioned as an acknowledgment in this story.

As I read, I often had to remind myself that this is an Emery Lord novel. It is much different from her previous books. Vivi has remnants of what I would expect from an Emery Lord protagonist: she is wildly eccentric in the best possible way, comfortable in her own skin, a strong female heroine that does not deal with anyone's judgments, and there's also a strong parent/child bond with her and her mother. But she's also bi-polar, which brings a new side to Emery's characterizations and writing as a whole. We watch as Vivi goes from this bright, vivid, beautiful character as she slowly descends into a manic episode. This is many people's reality, and Lord portrays it with great respect.

On the opposite side, we have Jonah. I'm sorry, but Jonah Griggs of Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road, namesake of my beloved laptop, is always number one for me, but I suppose this Jonah can comfortably come in second. This is a young kid, just sixteen years old, that seems to balance his family's sanity on his shoulders. He takes care of the three littles despite being the youngest big, he works in his father's restaurant to keep his memory alive and one day aspires to be a cook. He silently prays for his mother everyday to be pulled out of her depression induced by his father's sudden, and relatively recent, passing. He doesn't have the best life, but he rolls with it, and when Vivi bursts into his world bringing with her vivid color everything begins to change for the better. Told in Vivi and Jonah's perspective, you get a true understanding of who both characters are at their very core.

The romance in this was amazing, too. These two are so good for each other, even if it's just a summer fling. Jonah's shyness up against Vivi's outgoing nature makes them a pair worth reading. Their pasts are so intense and unique, allowing Lord to explore more deeply important themes aside from simply mental health because dealing with the death of a parent and a depressed parent is emotionally trying in its own way. This is a really heavy book, but because it is done so well it doesn't feel that way. It's a story that shows you to look for the positive light even in the darkest of times. There's really nothing more I can say about it.

I have one small issue with this book and that is the very end. Someone very close to me has bipolar disorder, and I understand living with it is hard and that I am no expert in such a category because I am merely a student who knows several people diagnosed with it. I know that you can't control yourself when you are experiencing an episode. It's like you aren't yourself anymore, there's a glass window inside your mind that you are standing behind as you watch your body doing things you don't understand why you're doing but can't help not to. At times, logic flies out the window. Again, out of one's control. But when taken out of a manic episode, people are more aware. I guess I was so shocked that Vivi brushed everything off after causing such emotional tumult. Talking about things really alleviates emotional stress--something Vivi has yet to learn. She's lived with some dark secrets that she refuses to acknowledge and they visibly weigh her down. Lord attributes this to her personality, giving an almost apology but not quite making it there, and I don't know why this bothers me, but it does. An apology, an acknowledgement of the pain, can go a long way.

All in all, a very powerful book that deals with mental illness so well it should be a must read for everyone. A bit darker for Emery Lord, it showcases her skill and talent as an author. She keeps growing and growing, and one day she is going to fully dominate the young adult contemporary field. I will read anything she writes because she consistently blows readers away with her storytelling.
4.5 stars

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FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this honest review. 


  1. We've already discussed this novel, so you know my thoughts on it! I deeply admire what Lord chose to write about, and I fell hard for Jonah and Vivi. I truly loved When We Collided, and I think it was a novel that needed to be written. I also really appreciate that your thoughts on the ending made me think about it in another light as well!

    1. Yes, thank you for your thoughts <3 The conversation we had stemming from this one was really interesting.