Jonah is seventeen, and has recently lost his dad. He’s just about the middle child in a large family, and his mum has taken their recent loss hard, to the point where she has retreated to her bedroom, and rarely comes out. Jonah is left to take care of his younger siblings, and he is existing this way until one day, Vivi arrives in his beachside town for the summer. Vivi is a force to be reckoned with; she says what she’s thinking, she wears what she wants, and everything she does is because she wants life to be an experience.
It’s not always easy to like Vivi. She’s overbearing, and difficult, and not always totally sympathetic. But as her story unfolds, she displays more and more vulnerability, and although she sets out on a one-person mission to save Jonah, and make his life a little more bearable, it’s obvious that she needs saving as much as he does, if not more.
A YA beach-set novel is one of my favourite types, but I never expect more than an entertaining story and a romance between the lead characters. I thought When We Collided was going to be that type of book, but it didn’t take very long for me to realise that it was a different story altogether. It’s YA fiction at its best, because it takes the universal story of first love and explores it through the lens of both grief and serious mental illness.
Without giving anything away, the ending had me crying as I finished the book on the train. I am not sure that I bought into the romance as much as I could have, but I think that the ending proves that it’s a story that is about more than just a boy and a girl.
When We Collided by Emery Lord
First published: April 2016
Review copy provided by publisher via Netgalley