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BOOK REVIEW: When We Collided by Emery Lord

| 8 March 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: When We Collided by Emery Lord

April 2016
Paperback, £7.99
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli




This is where I am, somewhere between the night’s total darkness and the light’s utter brilliance, and I grin as I dance and the night wind kicks up Jonah’s hair.
The glow of my birthday candles and the fairy lights would have been more than enough. But Jonah Daniels?He lit up my whole world.
Even the constellations can see us now: we are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know.

When We Collided is a very important book. Reminiscent of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places (a personal 2015 favourite that tore this reader apart in the way only a book about incredibly important issues can) it deals with things many teenagers go through every day. Things adults do not want teenagers to go through, and find very hard to accept. The statistics of mental illness in teenagers are absolutely staggering.

Vivi Alexander is a bright spark in a sea of endless darkness. She is dazzling, vivacious, so high on life that she knows she can touch the sky if only she could stretch her fingers enough. An artistic soul borne from another artistic soul, she expresses herself in colours: a bright dash of blood-red lipstick, white hair a la Marilyn Monroe, colourful clothes that swish around her legs and turn her into a popsicle of beautiful fabrics. But deep inside, that’s not all she is: she is more, and wants to be more, and sometimes the sadness of the world threatens to drown her.

On the other side of the spectrum is Jonah Daniels, seventeen years old and at a complete loss. His father died six months ago, his mother won’t leave her room, and he has five siblings to take care of. They’re divided into two groups — the littles and the bigs. The bigs take care of the littles, and the littles get to live life to the fullest thanks to the bigs’ numerous sacrifices. Sacrifices they shouldn’t be making. As a resigned soul, he expresses himself with food: thick doughs he can pummel, sauces he can stir and spice up, new ingredients to try and new dishes to create at his father’s legacy, Tony’s. Cooking is the only relief he gets in a life of burdens that weigh him down like the heavy anchor on a ship, holding him moored.

The two couldn’t be more different, yet somehow they meet.

And they collide.


You try not to think that it seems so casual for her. You try to convince yourself you feel the same. But you don’t. Your feelings fill the room like an angry fire. Your feelings for her could blow the glass out of the windows.

I find books that deal with mental illness in teenagers incredibly, incredibly important. Unfortunately, there is not much talk about the stigma that follows mental illness around like an unwanted bad smell, but it’s there, and the more people talk about it, the less the stigma will matter. Unlike other books that deal with mental illness in teenagers, When We Collided deals with bipolar II, depression in both adults and teenagers, as well as grief. Sometimes people don’t realise how badly we need to talk about grief too, and how to survive it.


I almost say that I think it’s a good sign that he said she still cries, but I close my mouth because that seems like a cruel sentiment. But what I mean is, depression, it settles like a shadow over your body while you sleep, and it mutes every frequency into blankness, into fog. Everyone thinks you can’t laugh when you’re depressed, but I couldn’t cry either because I couldn’t feel.

But Emery Lord does all these things. She paints a vivid portrait of mental illness and grief and the subtle difference between the two. How grief can be survived if you talk to people. How you are not alone in a world of people all fumbling around, trying to make sense of the cards life dealt them. How mental illness can suck the marrow out of your bones, but if you fight back hard enough, you will win this battle, and you will win all the other battles it throws at you.


I’ll drive the one that goes the fastest, so fast that I outrun every dirty memory scattered like litter behind me. I’ll drive it all the way back to Verona Cove, and I will speed past Jonah Daniels, as living proof that sad people can do anything. Living proof that we can ride again, better than before.

Jonah’s and Vivi’s story is not far-fetched. Although the romance rears up and hits you in the face (as in, it comes out of nowhere) it works in the book’s favour, especially when it’s used to show how the two characters are both grasping at straws, trying to be normal and have normal, steady lives. I absolutely adored (and coming from a big family, you would not think so) Jonah’s huge, messy family, and how his father was Italian. It’s so great and flattering to see Italian families portrayed in a book this way: we are big and loud and love food so much and, yes, we will, most likely, try to feed you every chance we get. Jonah’s love for the kitchen and food resonated in me, and his father seems so much like my father that it really made me think.

Overall, When We Collided is a book the world needs, and especially teenagers need to read. Like All the Bright Places this book highlights all the symptoms of mental illness, but it also shows that not all is lost if one is diagnosed. It shows that you can come back from it, better, faster and stronger than before, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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