When We Collided – book review

When We Collided

When We Collided is a powerful and moving novel, written by Emery Lord.

Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah is burdened by the responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As the summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by.

Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems so much brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.


From the moment I heard about this phenomenal book, When We Collided, I knew it was something I had to read. I’m a massive fan of books that deal with mental illnesses because I believe they’re just so important in our society. I believe they’re important for so many reasons, but two main ones stand out to me at the moment:

  1. They’re important so that people dealing with similar issues know that they’re not alone. I can’t even recall how many times that reading a book has helped me through a rough patch in my life, but it would be more times that I could count using both hands. There’s something so comforting about seeing another person dealing with similar issues, and, nine times out of ten, they manage to make it through and become a better person because of the way they dealt with their struggles and managed to find happiness, even in the most unlikely of places. It’s these books that give me the strength to carry on, knowing that there are so many other people in the same position as me, feeling the same things as I am.
  2. It’s also really important that lots of people read these books because we all need to become more aware and more accepting of people who struggle with mental illnesses. Mental health is something that’s really misunderstood in our community and I think that people who read these books will become more knowledgeable about mental health and other important and related issues. Most of the things I’ve learnt and the morals I’ve adopted has been through my reading of YA fiction. It might sound crazy to people who don’t read books, but I’ve formed most of my beliefs and opinions through reading books about the people affected by these matters. And this book allowed me to gain more of an understanding about bipolar disorder, what it’s really like, and how it affects both the individual and the people close to them.

When We Collided was actually the first book I read that deals with issues such as bipolar disorder. A lot of the books that deal with mental health out there focus mainly around depression and anxiety, I feel. Yes, most of the people that have a mental illness fall into the categories of anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders and affective disorders, in that order. And yes, I haven’t read any YA fiction novels about substance abuse disorders, but most of the people that deal with those are not in their teenage years. And no, I’m not making generalisations. I literally have my psychology textbook in front of me. But while bipolar disorder only affects about 2% of the population, this is the first novel I’ve come across where the protagonist is dealing with this particular illness. In that way, it wasn’t just an enjoyable read, it was highly informative and allowed me to gain a raw and honest view into the life of someone living with this disorder.

[EDIT: A gorgeous person who read my review kindly pointed out that Finch from All the Bright Places also has bipolar disorder – oops! It’s been a while since I’ve read that book, so perhaps it’s time for a reread!]

The thing I loved most about this poignant and touching novel was how it talked openly and honestly about not only bipolar disorder, but also depression in both adults and teenagers, as well as grief. I think that everyone will be affected by one of these things at some point in their life or know someone who goes through a similar thing. Emery Lord offers a raw, unguarded insight into mental illness and grief and how these things can be conquered by talking about them and allowing others to give you help. The one thing that I’ve learnt both from experiencing similar things in my life and reading about other people (fictional and otherwise) doing the same is that dealing with these sorts of issues can feel like quite an isolating experience. But the important thing to take from this book is that you’re never alone and there is always someone there who cares about you and is willing to listen to you. And even if you feel like there isn’t anyone you can talk to, there are professionals who are literally paid to listen to you talk about the things that are bothering you. It’s so so important that we start talking about mental illness in order to break down the stigmas that I still hear floating around our society today. We’re definitely getting a lot better about understanding, but we still have a long way to go. And I know that books like When We Collided will help break down the stigmas surrounding mental illness.

Vivi was one of the most original characters I’ve met in a long time. And I’m not talking about her mental illness as I don’t think that is what defines a person. I’m talking about her gorgeous, dazzling personality and the zany energy that radiated from the pages. She was incredibly artistic and used her passion for colour to paint the dark world around her into one of immense colour. While she was deeply affected by her mental illness, she never let that stop her from doing the things she was passionate about and she recognised that she could still find happiness despite the dark places that her disorder made her think she was trapped in. It was really touching to see that she was surrounded by people who loved her and cared about her and while some didn’t know the full truth, they loved her for who she is and how she didn’t let her illness define her. The love and support she got from her mother was also a really important factor in this novel and it’s characters like these that will enable other young people to realise that the people who have always been there for you won’t just desert you because you’re going through a rough patch or you’ve been diagnosed with any type of illness. I’m not denying that being diagnosed with a mental illness also affects those around you, but the people closest to you should love you enough to understand that you’re the same person and that a word on a piece of paper labelling your illness doesn’t define you.

Our other gorgeous protagonist was Jonah, who’s struggling to keep his family afloat after his father died six months ago and his mother won’t leave her room. His dedication to his family was one of the things I admired most about him. Even though he too was drastically affected by the loss of his father, every day he put on a brave face for his younger siblings and tried to give them the most normal life possible. His kindness towards Vivi was so touching and when he learned of what she was dealing with, his determination to stand by her no matter what and be there for her was really beautiful. His willingness to try to understand what she was going through and help her in any way that he could was a clear indicator of his strength of character. I also adored Jonah’s huge, messy family and grew attached to every one of his five siblings. They each added something special to the novel and I loved all their little quirks.

While I’ve seen a few people saying that they thought the romance between Jonah and Vivi was too ‘instalove-y’, I didn’t really feel that way. I’m normally hyperaware of instalove, but I didn’t think that Jonah and Vivi fell in love too quickly. Their passion felt real and vivid, complimenting their own unique and distinct personalities. What I loved most about their romance was that it was used to highlight the different ways in which they’re dealing with their own struggles and how they were both trying to have normal, steady lives. Honestly, I think that this book needed the romance so that it wasn’t just a book about mental illness – because it’s not. It’s about so much more than that. It’s about friendship and love and the importance of family. It’s about cooking and art and making lasting relationships. It’s about learning to find happiness even in the darkest of times and meeting the people that help you realise that you’re not alone. Like Vivi and everyone else out there like her, this book is more than the mental illnesses it deals with.

Finally, the Emery Lord’s writing was simply exquisite. There were so many times while reading this novel that I wished I could take out a highlighter and mark my favourite quotes, but I have a fear of even just creasing the spine of my books, so adding colourful additions to the pristine white pages was definitely a no-no. But here’s one of my favourites just to give you a taste of the magic…

“I keep wondering if it’ll ever hurt less. This…this hole in our lives.”

“Oh, I imagine it’ll hurt less eventually. I think there will always be a hole, though. But lace is one of the most beautiful fabrics, you know. All those holes and gaps, but it’s still complete somehow- still lovely.”

This novel is also told from both Vivi’s and Jonah’s point of view, which I feel was integral to the narrative as it allowed us to gain a greater insight into the lives of both characters and see the world through their eyes. There was a distinct change between their chapters, so I was never confused as to which character I was reading from. And it was also great that I didn’t prefer one character’s POV from the other and that I felt both were equally entertaining and insightful into their worlds.

Overall, I think this is a really raw and powerful book – and one that left me in tears by the end. It was compelling and honest and it’s something I definitely think everyone should read. There are so many important messages within its gorgeous cover and I’m grateful for the things I realised and learned while reading this book. I’d give When We Collided by Emery Lord a score of 10 out of 10. It’s time to talk about this book! Have you had a chance to read this one yet? Do you agree with some of the points I’ve raised? Have you read any other books that deal with similar issues? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Just in case you’re looking for similar books, I’ve compiled a short list of some of my favourite books that deal with mental health issues. I definitely recommend checking these ones out too…

If you have any other recommendations, please let me know!

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

15 thoughts on “When We Collided – book review

  1. Great review! And I totally agree that there should be more books focussing on mental health awareness. Finch from All The Bright Places actually also suffered from bipolar disorder 😊

      • I’m not sure if it’s discussed as in depth as in When We Collided (I haven’t actually read it, but from your review it sound like it is pretty in depth) but you can definitely see when he is really down and then when he has a maniac episode 😊

      • Yes, it’s fairly in-depth in When We Collided. Thanks so much for letting me know, you’ve prompted a reread – it’s about time and I couldn’t be happier to read that gorgeous book again!

  2. WOW, this review is amazing! This book seems great, I’m definitely adding it to my TBR 🙂 I too believe its important to be reading topics about mental illness because its so complex and easily misunderstood. I’m glad this book was a good one!

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