by Emery Lord
To be published on April 5, 2016
Source: ARC for review from publisher
Summary from ARC: Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and Jonah's life suddenly seems brighter, better and much more colorful. For Vivi, Jonah is the perfect project, her spontaneity balancing out the weight of her reality. Their love becomes 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. When Vivi and Jonah's pasts collide with the present, will their love be strong enough to last?My take: I'm a fan of Emery Lord - in three YA books, she's managed to take very familiar YA premises - road trips and music, a character recovering from the death of someone close to her, and, in this book, mental illness - and make them into something fresh and engaging.
Still, I was pretty wary of this book. The synopsis pretty much screams Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and those characters aren't my favorite. Two years ago, I did a post on this type of character and why I find it annoying. One of the reasons is that an MPDG is usually not a character in her own right, but more of a catalyst who helps the main (male) character learn important life lessons.
But I (finally) read When We Collided, and there were a lot of things I did like about it. First off, I love Emery Lord's writing. There's something about it that just draws me in every time. I loved the book's small town setting, and Jonah's family, who reminded me a lot of the characters in My Life Next Door. No, Vivi wasn't my favorite character, but the book made me empathize a lot with her.
The book deals with both mental illness and loss, and does so in a very moving way. Though the blurb above emphasizes this as a romance, I wouldn't call this a romantic book at all. Even though the romance in this (and the ending) was handled in the best way it could have been. I was happy that the book didn't wave a magic romance wand over everything and suggest that love fixes everything. It doesn't. Overall, this book took me on a completely different emotional journey than the one I went on in Open Road Summer. This book was definitely darker and more serious, and made me feel sad throughout.
Like Huntley Fitzpatrick, Lord balances the dark and light in her contemporary YA books in ways I find interesting. Both authors started with lighter books and seem to be trying out some darker themes. It's possibly just where I am as a reader right now, but I wouldn't mind a few steps back into the light!
How do you feel about books with darker, more serious themes versus lighter ones? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you switch off? Tell me in comments!