When We Collided / by Emery Lord. 10.19.2018

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781619638457

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

When We Collided centers around two 16-year-old teenagers who connect in a memorable way in the small coastal California town of Verona Cove over one summer. Vivian “Vivi” Alexander is into art and quirky fashion, has boundless energy, and makes spontaneous decisions. Jonah Daniels is serious, rarely smiles, and passionate about cooking. When the teenagers meet at a local pottery shop, they are immediately attracted to one another and become romantically involved. However, their relationship is profoundly affected by the tough issues both are facing in their lives. Vivi is dealing with mental illness and secretly tossing one of her prescription drugs into the ocean every day. Jonah is struggling to cope with the unforeseen death of his father, his mother’s debilitating depression, and parental and household responsibilities.

The story is told from the perspective of both Vivi and Jonah using alternating chapters in first person. This gives readers a realistic view of what the teenagers are thinking and feeling, and the effects emotional distress has not only on their relationship but also on friends and family members. The teenagers help each other cope with their individual challenges by offering support in a number of ways. For instance, although Jonah feels weighed down by responsibility, Vivi persuades him to relax and have fun, allowing Jonah to discover he enjoys acting carefree, even if only for a short time. On the occasions Vivi exhibits outlandish behavior, Jonah is the one who encourages her to rein in her actions. At the same time, the teenagers’ different personalities sometimes lead to conflicts, and an unplanned accident has a life-changing impact on both of them.

Emery Lord has written a compelling novel about what it means to live with mental illness and bereavement. The story includes profanity, discussions involving reincarnation, sexual innuendo and sexual intimacy, under-age drinking, and skinny dipping. In the author’s note, Lord encourages readers, who relate to what Vivi and Jonah are going through, to ask for help and provides resources that offer expertise in mental health issues.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ