Author: J.C. Hannigan
Genre: New Adult, Romance
After her near-death experience in a car accident that killed both her boyfriend and her best friend, Harlow Jones (
cool name, by the way) moves away from Southern Ontario and transfers to a Catholic high school where she meets physically attractive 28-year-old, Iain Bentley. The moment they meet, the attraction is instant. Soon enough, Harlow finds herself struggling between following her heart and doing the right thing.
In this story, we are immediately sucked into Harlow’s grief, fear, loss, and sorrow. Despite Harlow’s headstrong personality and sarcastic tongue, Hannigan presents her female lead as a vulnerable, complicated heroine battling her many dark demons. This, in turn, makes her a rather relatable character I can easily empathize with. Furthermore, I particularly enjoyed her narrative; it succeeded in showing me how she uses her spiteful aura and sarcastic quips to conceal her paranoia and inner turmoil instead of telling me about it. Yes, the whole “show, don’t tell” technique, which is essential in good story telling. I think that’s what really made Harlow come alive.
Also, I liked how despite her habitual use of marijuana and involvement in irresponsible activities, she still proves herself to be a morally right, intellectual character. For someone with such a troubled past and so much emotional trauma, you’d think Harlow would turn out to be someone who cares only about herself, but she isn’t. Time and time again, she goes out of her way to help others and to stand up for the principles she believes in. And she does these things while simultaneously acting her age, which makes everything all the more realistic.
Speaking of acting her age, like every teenager, Harlow also has a playful side. She can be pretty humorous when she wants to be. Actually, there was one scene in the book where she made a suggestive joke, and my first thought was, “Oh em, this is totally something I would say in real life.”
“How come you look so familiar?” he asked, peering at me as if he was trying to remember where he had seen my face before.
“I’m in a couple of porn movies,” I replied airily. I didn’t even laugh at his bewildered expression. People rarely knew how to take me, since I always looked serious and spoke seriously. “Kidding. I work at that diner down the road.”
I don’t think I have much to say about the love interest, Iain, who happens to be Harlow’s English teacher. It was admirable how honest and gentlemanly he is towards Harlow, but other than that, there isn’t really much to write home about. I mean, he obviously likes Harlow a lot, but I don’t know; something is off. I didn’t see him as a remarkable love interest, but an okay romantic partner.
“Let me know what you decide,” I said, turning around and heading for the door. His hand grabbed mine, and I looked back at him. His brows were furrowed with frustration and confusion. He looked torn. He still held my hand.
“I can’t seem to let you walk away, so I guess it’s decided,” Iain exhaled, running his free hand through his hair.
Truthfully, the student/teacher relationship is a topic I usually avoid and read very little of, but surprisingly, I really liked Hannigan’s take on this kind of forbidden love. With Harlow’s distinct voice and lovely narrative, the author succeeds in twisting a concept so incredibly taboo into something poignant, insightful and beautifully complex. What started off as an instant attraction gradually evolved into a genuine romantic relationship I enjoyed reading about.
Never before had I felt so strongly for someone, and it felt like it was all happening impossibly fast. Like a train going at warp speed, it left me dizzy and disoriented, but pleasantly so. I didn’t want to get off. I wanted to stay for the ride and see where we ended up. Even if we crashed. Even if there was a lot at stake. I wondered how it was possible to feel so much for someone so quickly and to give every bit of yourself without really giving. That’s what I was doing. I was open and vulnerable, only not with my words.
Collide features an array of remarkable supporting characters. My favorite is Jenna, a girl whom Harlow eventually befriends. Jenna faces her own struggles that are also told beautifully in the story. I liked how her strength significantly differs from Harlow’s straightforward, tough cookie confidence. In addition, I really liked the portrayal of Jake’s character as well. I hope to read more about them in the latter installments of this series.
What I liked most about the book, however, is that it didn’t just revolve around an unconventional love story. The novel also dealt with sensitive themes such as rape, abortion, drug use and death and socially relevant topics such as the exploitation of power and the lack of transparency from local officers and influential figures. The element of truth and reality as depicted in the book is one of the key elements that nicely tied the story together.
According to the author’s biography, Collide is Hannigan’s debut novel. I am glad to have read her earliest published work because after this novel, I am now a huge fan of her. There’s something inexplicably artful with her writing style – gripping, honest and full of soul.