WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you have not finished When We Collided yet, stop!! Go back!! Danger!! Come back here when you’re done and obsess with us then 🙂
Bean: Well, I definitely want to one day visit the real-life place Verona Cove is inspired by because it sounds like the perfect beach town. Maybe we should move there…? Meet u there?
Rosie: Save me a seat on the airplane!
Bean: Emery really sells the setting. Her descriptions of pretty much everything are obviously beautiful, but there’s a real nature element to this book. Like the symbols of the ocean and the moon are really interesting to me, especially as they relate to Vivi and Jonah.
Rosie: You are so right. Like the descriptions of the setting alone were gorg but the fact that it all ties together metaphorically just makes me want to be an English teacher so I can discuss this with twenty-five high schoolers just to prove that METAPHORS CAN BE FUN. When we’re first introduced to Vivi she’s carving VIVI WAS HERE into a tree, and it’s immediately clear that Vivi is this fast-forward force in a town that doesn’t really move. So at the end, when she says, “I have a Japanese maple seedling, and I have seen how beautiful a rooted life can be. But I have miles to go before I decide where to plant us,” I SOBBED. It just felt like this glowing reminder that it’s okay not to be fully settled at 17 (or even 24, I hope). You’re allowed to live and love and make mistakes and travel and love some more and you don’t have to be the million-year-old tree in the park stationed in one place. But it’s okay to also want to be that million-year-old tree in the park. But it’s okay to not be there yet. Today or tomorrow or even the next day.
Bean: I agree, well said actually. This book really does give you such a feeling of “You’re doing ok. You’re doing just fine. Wherever you are.” And I think that message speaks to readers of all ages. But the one setting/metaphor I do want to highlight is the mountain/ocean thing that goes on a lot throughout the novel. If that’s cool?
Bean: Ok so obviously, Jonah is connected to the sea, at least in Vivi’s mind, because she says he was a sea captain in a past life. But then Vivi herself is often compared to the ocean; she lives in a house that overlooks it, she flings her pills into every day, she herself comments on what the ocean’s greater significance is: “At night we gaze over the ocean, and we can’t believe the vastness or the blackness or how busy the waves are while the rest of the world sleeps. And Oh Lord, the way the moon fills up the cosmos–there is divinity in this view, I’m telling you.” And I just think this connection is really important.
If Jonah is the sea captain, the person who can navigate choppy waves and storms and calm waters all the same, then Vivi is the choppy waves. She is the storm and the calm waters. She is busy while the rest of the world sleeps, like the ocean. And although I’m connecting this now, I didn’t connect it until one of the last lines of the book, when Jonah is reading Vivi’s goodbye letter and she says “Maybe in my next life, I’ll be a wave in the ocean, and you’ll be a mountain, and we’ll spend years brushing up against each other.” Which, let’s be honest, is simultaneously the most beautiful and tragic way to describe a love that will never be, am I right?
And, of course, the metaphor continues when Jonah finishes the edges of Vivi’s ceilings and then Emery references that in her acknowledgements. HOW CUTE.
Rosie: Truth: I always read the acknowledgements in books. I actually hate that Kindles flash back to your library as soon as you finish the last page of the story because like, HI I’M NOT DONE READING YET. So anyway, I’ve read a lot of acknowledgements but never has one made me CRY. But Emery’s dedication to her husband is like CRYING FACE EMOJI. “Painter to my edges, mountain to my sea” — I LITERALLY CANNOT.
Bean: Ugh seriously, too cute and moving and perfectly metaphor-ed for words. And that’s coming from two writers.
Bean: Maybe I’ve already said this, but can we just talk about how sometimes Emery’s metaphors/imagery/sentences in general are just absolute GOLD???
The first time I kind of (metaphorically) sat up and realized, whoa, this is just good writing was when Vivi describes the waitress at the diner, Betty, in the very beginning: “I think Betty keeps words like sugar, darlin’, and honey etched on a pair of dice in her mind. With each customer interaction, she shakes one or both dice to land on a single word or combo: honey pie, sugar darlin’, doll baby. I like to hear who I am each day.”
Rosie: Yes! Though I love all of Emery’s books, I think she takes her own writing to a whole other level in When We Collided. I was basically highlighting every other line.
Bean: But who do you think she gives the BEST lines to? Vivi is obviously the main character and the center of the plot and this dramatic, alive, colorful character, but I think maybe Jonah steals the show with beautiful language actually. When he describes his mom, and grief in general, saying “Sometimes I wonder if she’s whispering to her heart: Beat. Beat. Beat. To her lungs: In, out. Like it takes all her time and energy to exist,” it just kind of grabs your heart and squeezes.
Rosie: I wish there was a Jonah Daniels poetry collection being released in Summer 2016.
Bean: And his descriptions of Vivi manage to tell you SOOO much about, obviously the way he feels about her, but so much about who she is to others in general, as well. These are just some of my favorites:
“She looks like lemon meringue pie tastes. Sunny, tangy, sweet.”
“Her laugh sounds like wind chimes.”
“My mind has been like a cement mixer for the past three days. If I stop thinking about Vivi for too long, my life might harden into the gray slab it’s been for six months.”
Rosie: Jonah really does kill it with the one-liners. I have to say, my favorite line is actually from Vivi: “That’s the thing they never tell you about love stories: just because one ends, that doesn’t mean it failed. A cherry pie isn’t a failure just because you eat it all. It’s perfect for what it is and then it’s gone.” I think that line is perfection. So often people assume that if a relationship doesn’t last it wasn’t “true” love, but I think that’s dumb. I bet Vivi thinks that’s dumb, too.
Bean: If I HAD to pick one line in the entire book that’s my absolute FAVORITE, writing wise it would be when Jonah is describing how heartbroken his family is: “I want to tell her that I live with six heartbroken people, one of whom is catatonic. That kind of heartbreak smells like the aftermath of a car wreck, like hot metal. Oil. The chalky powder released by airbags.” …. Like how freaking beautiful and tragic and grating is that, all at once? I’m just unsure if I’ve ever heard heartbreak described more accurately.
Rosie: I’m unsure that it ever has been described more accurately. Petition for Jonah Daniels to win the Pulitzer!
Bean: You know, Rosie, (but maybe our readers don’t) that I generally don’t read Young Adult books. Sometimes they feel immature to me, almost, and don’t get me wrong sometimes they’re great. But I often feel personally removed from the “conflicts” of YA books, they just don’t grab my emotions and attention as strongly as they did when I was a teenager, which is natural I think.
But this book actually really surprised me and proved that wrong. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d love it, but by the end I was crying and honestly on the verge of sobbing. When We Collided really resonated with me; it didn’t feel immature at all even though it was about a summer, teenage love which could so easily become cliched.
I found myself kind of forgetting the age of Vivi and Jonah entirely and just seeing them as people, as peers who were struggling with really common and relatable shit: love, loss, mental illness, just a complicated life. And I appreciated that, because I think that’s the point of good YA lit–it puts teens’ problems on an even playing field that reminds everyone that they’re not “kids” or “babies,” their lives aren’t necessarily easier because they’re young, they’re just people who feel the same emotions as adults do. So I think Emery just overall did a wonderful job of portraying humanity and complexities and, especially, mental illness as a functional, livable, but difficult diagnosis. She brought a face that was likable and palpable to bipolar disorder, and I admired that.
Rosie: Considering this is the summary of our first ever book club, I feel like I should have some sort of profound conclusion, but I think you just said it all so perfectly. She portrayed humanity! It wasn’t a teenage story or a mental illness story or a love story, it was just a story! About humans! Doing human things! And having human problems! And human experiences! And I couldn’t have loved it more. But, as an avid-YA reader, this isn’t really surprising. I actually think your love of the book says more!
Bean: I actually find myself sincerely recommending this book to my friends of various ages, even ones who wouldn’t read YA usually. So I loved it! Good pick Rose. It’s definitely going on my short list of recommendations.
Bean: Overall, I loved this! I’m happy we read it and it was a great book to kick off our book club. Can’t wait for next month, let’s hope whatever book we choose can fill the shoes When We Collided has created!
Rosie: Good luck future book.
Looking back, we deem our first book club a definite success! But, who cares about us, what did YOU think of When We Collided? Love it? Hate it? Who was your favorite character? We want to hear your opinions, good, bad, and ugly (or pretty), so PLEASE let us know! Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook wall, tweet at us, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already itching for our next book club? We won’t be back with any discussions until June, to give everyone enough time to read, but we are taking a Twitter poll right now for which book it should be! Click here to head over to our Twitter and cast your vote…we’ll be announcing the winner soon!
With love and virtual book club virtual baked goods, Rosie & Bean