Seventeen year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life, and only one thing has ever changed: his father used to be alive, and now he is not. With a mother lost in a deep bout of depression, Jonah and his five siblings struggle to keep up their home and the restaurant their dad left behind. But at the start of summer, a second change rolls in: Vivi Alexander, the new girl in town.
Vivi is in love with life. Charming and unfiltered, she refuses to be held down by the medicine she’s told should make her feel better. After meeting Jonah, she slides into the Daniels’ household seamlessly, winning over each sibling with her imagination and gameness. But it’s not long before Vivi’s zest for life begins to falter. Soon her adventurousness becomes all-out danger-seeking.
Through each high and low, Vivi and Jonah’s love is put to the test . . . but what happens when love simply isn’t enough?*
I don’t really know what I was expecting from this book other than an epic love story–that’s really the only descriptor I had it for it going in–but it ended up being so much more.
The romance in this story was spot on in so many ways. I feel like I’ve been saying this in a lot of my reviews lately, but I guess I’ve just been reading a lot of good books lately: the characters, and by extension the romance, were extremely true to life. It wasn’t just a cute, sappy love story, though there were plenty of those sweet moments that pull me into a book like this. The characters went through real emotional trauma, some because of life’s unexpected tragedies, some because of mental illness. Their love didn’t magically make their lives or their mental health any better, but it did lead them to a better place. They had to get frustrated, get angry, and get sad in order to grow, even if it didn’t necessarily mean they grew together. Vivi and Jonah had two very different issues to deal with, and there was no way they were going to deal with them in the same way.
I don’t know a lot about bipolar disorder, but the way that Emery portrays it makes a lot of sense. Everyone experiences it differently, but even just getting a glimpse into how it effects one person is an eye opening lesson that makes it easier to empathize.
Though Vivi and Jonah are the protagonists who collide in this story, I was impressed with the way the secondary characters were so well fleshed out. Even in some of my favorite books by highly talented writers I’ve found that secondary characters get sort of shunted to the side and turned into cliches. That was far from the case in this book. I almost want a sequel, just to find out what happened to Jonah’s family, Ellie, and Officer Hayashi.
The descriptions of the settings and the foods and the smells were all so well written that I almost find myself missing a place I’ve never been. It was actually ironic–a lot of the descriptors fit the place I’m staying now, doing an internship on a barrier island. I laughed out loud at the mention of an outdoor shower because guess what I’ve been using the past few days? (Like bathing in the warmest waterfall.) I also swayed in a hammock, the sound of birds and the ocean’s waves crashing providing the soundtrack to my reading about the same things being experienced by Vivi.
Overall: This is a great story about mental illness, grief, love, and how all of these things somehow find a way to fit together.
*Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.