A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When We Collided is Emery Lord's third contemporary realistic novel -- a summer romance between two teens in a small California beach town struggling with mental illness and grief. Unlike her first two romances, this story focuses on a girl with bipolar disorder and a boy dealing with the death of his father and his widowed mother's depression. The story explores these mature themes as well as detailed symptoms of bipolar disorder such as impulsivity, reckless overspending, hypersexuality, unusually high energy, inability to concentrate, and insomnia. There's occasional strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole") and descriptions of sexual behavior/intimacy, but most of it is fade-to-black. The author provides resources and a launching point to discuss mental illness with teen readers.
What's the story?
WHEN WE COLLIDED is a summer romance between two teens dealing with different kinds of emotional issues. Vivi is the new girl in a small beach town for the summer; she has bipolar disorder but has decided to stop taking her medication and not discuss her diagnosis with anyone. One day at her custom pottery job, she meets Jonah, a handsome Verona Cove townie who's there with his adorable little sister, Leah. Vivi is immediately attracted to Jonah and considers him the "ring to her Frodo"; she will purse him. And with her Marilyn Monroe-platinum curls, amazing figure, and charisma, it's no surprise that Jonah is drawn to her. Except Jonah is no casual fling. He's one of three grieving older siblings in charge of three younger siblings while their widowed mother suffers debilitating clinical depression. For a while, Jonah adores having Vivi be part of his chaotic home life. But as their romance speeds along, it's increasingly clear to Jonah that there's something off about Vivi's nonstop energy, demands for physical intimacy, and startling mood swings.
Is it any good?
This novel may seem like a typical summer romance, but it's actually a substantive if uneven exploration of how two seemingly broken teens fall in love despite their struggles. Although it provides two points of view, it's Vivi's story that brings it to life, however reckless and risky her decisions might be to most readers. The portrayal of her mania hits all the symptoms on a checklist, but occasionally she's depicted as a bit too stereotypically magical to seem genuine. And the romance suffers, albeit intentionally, from her self-absorbed need to do everything she wants whenever she wants it -- including physical intimacy. Balancing Vivi's lack of impulse control is sweet, practical, perpetually concerned Jonah, who falls hard for this "whirling dervish" of a girl but knows deep down that there's something a little too much, too intensely hot or cold, about Vivi's behavior.
One of the best aspects of When We Collided is Lord's depiction of Jonah's large, six-sibling family. While Vivi is an only child (of which there are a disproportionate number in young adult literature), the Daniels clan is three teens/young adults (Jonah is the third child) and three kids under the age of 11. The love and chaos and energy the siblings bring to the story are much more authentic than Vivi's ability to fix (or fix up) everything and everyone around her except herself. Instead, she hurts herself by not accepting her diagnosis. Well written and emotional, When We Collided is a worthy read that proves a great conversation starter, but the love story feels too rushed, too much like "instalove," to prove as memorable as Lord's first two romances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how When We Collided depicts mental illness and grief. What do you learn about the different kinds of mental illness and how they affect people and those around them?
Are any characters in the book role models? Who, and why?
This is not your typical romance, but there is definitely sex in the story. Is Jonah and Vivi's sexual relationship healthy? Why is it noteworthy that she's much more experienced than he is?
- Author: Emery Lord
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
- Publication date: April 5, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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