When we collided by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408870082
(Age: Senior Secondary) Highly recommended. Extroverted Vivi, her cheerfulness hiding her fragility and the embarrassing memories she wants to forget, arrives with her mother to spend the summer in Verona Cove, a tiny coastal town, its details 'so perfect that it feels like a film set'. It is an idyllic setting and the inhabitants are kindly, caring, considerate and gentle.
Here octogenarians enjoy a drink of coffee in Betty's Diner, their ' . . . white puffs of hair hovering like clouds over the back of the aqua vinyl booths . . . ' and the owner greets everyone with endearments.
Vivi has a summer job at the pottery shop and this is where she meets Jonah and his five year old sister, Leah.
Jonah, the third oldest of six children, must share the role of father and mother to his younger siblings following the death of his father and his mother's inability to cope with her grief. He must share the responsibility of keeping the family restaurant operating to bring in income for the family. He loved and admired his father and grieves for him and he is sure this girl 'who looks like lemon meringue pie tastes, sunny, tangy, sweet', will refuse Leah's impulsive invitation to dinner. But Vivi accepts and falls in love with not only Jonah, but his siblings as well.
Vivi declares, 'I'm not much for silence: it simply doesn't suit me', Her vitality, creativity and sense of fun, even though her emotions are sometimes too high, sometimes too low, is like a tonic for this family, helping them breathe more easily 'in the stiflingly sad house'.
Vivi has found a family who needs her and this is balm to her troubled spirit. Vivi feels that Jonah complements her 'like mint ice cream and chocolate chips' and they draw close together with Vivi forcing Jonah to rethink his plans for the future and to try new ideas in the restaurant.
But Vivi's behaviour becomes more erratic. Without her mother's knowledge, she has been throwing away one of the tablets she is supposed to take every day to prevent another episode similar to the painful memories she is trying to suppress.
Vivi discovers her father's identity and after facing him and his hostility, she spins out of control and Jonah witnesses the road accident which nearly claims her life. During her recovery, Vivi faces up to the fact that she has bipolar disorder, and she and her mother reassess their future and decide to return to their former home.
These are warm, vital characters, with genuine concern for each other. It is so easy to become involved in their story and so refreshing to read of characters who know there will be difficult weeks in their lives but who move on with courage and optimism. They reach for 'happiness even in uncertainty'.
Emery Lord closes the novel with advice about dealing with bipolar disorder. Her belief that 'maybe the path isn't perfect but you get there' reflects the feeling of optimism that floods this book.
I highly recommend this book to teenage readers of either sex, just as I would recommend Jandy Nelson's novel, I'll give you the sun, for its honesty and compassion.