Review: When We Collided
When We Collided - Emery Lord
When We Collided is one of those everywhere books, you know, in that, it’s been all over bookstagram (which makes sense because holy pretty cover, Batman) and all over Twitter and mostly it gets All The Glowing Reviews and I was super excited to read it. & if you’ve been sneaking into my house and studying my bookcase – which is a completely weird thought and one that may give me nightmares because I am nothing if not a sensitive soul – then you might be thinking ‘huh, she can’t have been that excited; she’s had that damn book for ages.’
You would be both right and wrong.
Right, because yes, I have had this book for quite a while. Wrong because actually the amount of time I own a book in no way correlates with how excited I am to read it because I own a lot of books and I buy a lot of books and sometimes I am in the mood for something in particular and sometimes there are ARCs that I need to read and sometimes somebody will say READ THIS NOW and also there are a LOT of books that I am super excited to read and I cannot read them all at once. Sometimes then, sadly, there are books I am super excited to read and just don’t get round to as quickly as I might like and that, dear friends, is what happened here.
That’s no bad thing though, necessarily, because sometimes coming to something that’s been sitting prettily on your bookshelf for a while can be wonderful. Oh hello, there you are: I’ve been looking for you forever. (Yep, that’s me, always channelling my inner Blaine Anderson because seriously, why would you not. Wow I totally need to get me a Glee boxset...)
When We Collided, which sounded amazing and which somehow fell just a little bit short of the mark.
What I mean by this is, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. There are parts that I liked a lot and thought were really well done and then there were parts that had me feeling a little bit ‘noooo don’t do it that way’ and now I come to review it and I don’t know where to start. It’s frustrating somehow, because this book could have been great and it makes me wonder whether maybe some stories should just stay away from romance altogether because sometimes sometimes the story of that crazy little thing called love can take away from the actual story, the one that matters. That’s where the book lost its first lot of points, I think: the romance just didn’t work for me. I mean, I have a lot of feelings towards that whole instalove anyway because it’s so very rarely done well and I like a story and I like development and I like to be able to see why and how and when, with any story, not just a love story and…actually hang on, Imma find you a quote:
“When I met Jonah Daniels yesterday, there was a magical shift in the trajectory of my summer. He’s the ring to my Frodo, the wardrobe to my Lucy Pevensie. His presence in my life sets me on my journey, and I can feel it, a vital mission pulsing in my bones. Here is a boy who needs me."
Huh. You see what I mean? She met him yesterday, and that meeting FYI was pretty brief and in that meeting I felt no magical shift in trajectory. I did not think here is the wardrobe to Vivi’s Lucy.’ What I thought was ‘yes, this could be interesting.’ And then BAM THEY’RE IN LOVE and it was suddenly less interesting than I wanted it to be. #cantankerousoldlady
I mean, I’m not dead inside or anything, far from it: I am a well of emotion that threatens to bubble over actually – like I said above sensitive soul – and I believe in love with every fibre of my sensitive being and I totes believe it’s possible to make a connection with a person right away also. I just don’t quite believe in that. And I don’t quite buy into two people kind of meeting sort of in passing and one of them being the ring to the other persons Frodo or whatever. Mostly because I want the details and the nitty gritty. I want to feel it and this kind of hyperbolic CRASHING OF WORLDS - I don’t feel it. I mean gimme a lovehate over and instalove any day of the week because at least there we get development and narrative and something to connect to.
(Yup. Delena. No instalove there guys and I WAS ALL OVER THAT STORY)
Anyway. My point is this: this book is important I think, it has a message that is an important message and I think (and I am sorry) that it would have been better if there’d been no love story, if Jonah and Vivi had just been pals. Partly because it all happened too fast to be real, partly because I just didn’t get them together; it didn’t work - for me, at least - and partly because Jonah is a precious little panda and Vivi (again, I know there’s a whole story to this, I’m coming to that I promise) was a dick to him (seriously, so controlling and so awful and parts of it just made me really uneasy actually) and it just….didn’t work. So there was that.
As for the meat of the story, well, I wanted to publish this review last week really, because of Mental Health Week but well, life got in the way as it does and so I’m a little late. Mental Health is a thing we should be talking about all of the time though so I guess I can forgive myself. This book is a book about mental health, about mental health in young adults and that is why it matters.
Jonah is sinking; his Dad died and he misses him terribly, his Mum is depressed to the point she’s almost unrecognisable and Jonah has no idea how to reach her whivh is shitty because he needs her and he has to look after numerous younger siblings and everything is pretty awful, really. It’s a lot because really, he’s just a kid himself. Those parts of the book, the Jonah parts, the Jonah’s family parts, those are the parts that saved this book for me. I loved them. They were raw and honest and painful and funny and so full of love and so full of hurt and I could have read a whole damn book about that beautiful fractured family. Lord got all of that exactly right– the loud messy chaotic love of a large family; the bone shattering pain of loss; the agony of carrying too much weight on your shoulders whilst trying to keep. moving. forward. It was spot on. I also liked the juxtaposition of Vivi and her mental illness which is loud and in your face and catastrophic and yet somehow easy to miss and Jonah and his Mum quietly collapsing under the weight of it. It made it's point I think; that mental illness can take so many many forms and that it can be hard to see even when it's right under your nose, or if not hard to see then hard to acknowledge from both inside and outside…
Which brings us to Vivi…
Vivi has Bipolar Disorder although this isn’t explicitly stated for a while (you can thank Homeland for the fact that I picked up on this when I did. It was the talk of Lithium that did it, that and Vivi’s very obvious symptoms) and you know what, I liked that this book was prepared to tackle these things. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I think it matters.
Problem was, that whilst Jonah is the kind of character you just want to love forever, precious little snowflake that he is, Vivi just pissed me off and look, I know, ok, I know that that probably makes me a terrible person but I can’t help it. She annoyed me to the point that I kind of wanted to climb into the book and shake her and I found her incredibly difficult to relate to and something about her just bugged me so that even though I knew she wasn’t well, I still found it so hard to identify with her, or pretty much anything she did. There is no way that all of that, all of her was down to her illness and she made some really fucking questionable choices (and there are some things to do with consent that I kind of want to tackle also but I'm not sure I'm qualified and I am aware that a lot of Vivi's attitudes towards sex were a symptom and even if they weren't I am in no way slut shaming, but I was concerned with some of her interactions with Jonah, sexually. A couple of things made me feel a little squiffy and I feel like maybe they could have been addressed in a little bit more detail...).
Anyhow. In addition to the fact that Vivi just isn't nice and in addition to the fact that I am pretty sure this wasn't what I was supposed to think: I was supposed to love her (she was the epitome of the manic pixie dream girl and she made my eyes hurt to read about sometimes; mt little introvert self was terrified of her), I think I kind of feel like Vivi’s symptoms were a bit like going down a checklist: incredibly implusive – check; reckless to the point of dangerous – got it; hypersexual, to the point of crossing some lines (those parts made me hella uncomfortable FYI, see above) – hell yes; unusually high energy– yup; no concentration – got that and so on and so forth and on top of all that she’s painted, even when she’s not caught in a manic episode as this wonderful magical incredible person that’s SO FULL OF LIGHT AND MAGIC AND WONDER AND YOU CAN’T NOT ADORE HER and it just didn’t gel, for me at least because what she actually is, is incredibly, and sometimes cruelly, selfish.Where are all of your fucks Vivi because seriously some people, like Jonah, have earned them.
Actually, let’s talk about Vivi's Mum and her relationship with her Mum for a minute also, because this did my head in. You're totally supposed to see Vivi's Mum as a parent figure, perhaps in the way Jonah's isn't right now. She's supposed to be this Mum that loves her kid and worries about her and wants the best for but here's the thing. She wasn't parenting. She should have been parenting because Bipolar aside, Vivi is 17; she lives at home with her Mum and yet Vivi’s a complete dick to her and where is the discipline oh my God. Every parental decision she makes Vivi rebels against and never in my life have I come across such a spoilt brat: she can’t (won't?) be disciplined, she throws a tantrum when she’s told no; she interrupts and talks over and talks down and wow, could she be any more respectful and her Mum just lets her get away with it. No, I’m sorry. Just, God, just DO SOME PARENTING OH MY GOD.
Also, it’s pretty obvious pretty fast that Vivi is off her meds, I mean I know we know that, but still, its obvious . Her Mum asks her about it once. Vivi throws a tantrum about it and lies and….that is that. Even when she finds her up a ladder painting the ceiling of the house they are only renting for the summer it doesn’t click. It made me angry; I mean this is not Vivi’s first manic episode, and the signs were SO THERE AND SO BLATANT and yet it got to The Bad Thing before her actual Mother admitted there was a problem when seriously, it was so obvious there was a problem and they were spending the summer away from home because of a previous episode and why wasn’t her Mum watching out for these little tells that pretty soon were so massive they might as well have been sky written. Nope. Not buying into that sorry.
So much of Vivi's story was badly handled I think, so badly handled and because of how that made the story pan out and because of how it painted her as a person it impacted negatively on the whole thing for me, mostly because I think it was hard to tell which parts were just Vivi being vile and which parts were her illness. I just didn’t like her. Which is such a shame because I really do feel that this whole thing could have been something and I really do feel like it mattered and I am so frustrated.
It was a pretty book though, look:
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.
I like that shit.
TL;DR: I didn’t hate it. I would have liked it a lot lot more if I’d liked Vivi probably and if I hadn’t found so much of her story problematic but that’s only my opinion and there are SO MANY people out there who love this book (average rating on Goodreads is almost 4 stars) and I gave it 3 which is A Good Thing and you should read it, because you might like Vivi a hell of a lot more than I did which I think would make the book a whole different experience….also Jonah’s family. Read it for them.