When We Collide by A.L. Jackson

When We Collide - A.L. Jackson

 

I was promised angst. I got angst. Nothing else.

Now, fair warning, this review will contain spoilers. However, this book is more about the psychological consequences on Will and Maggie throughout their lives rather than the actual events. Consider yourself warned, because spoilers ahead!

The story begins with William. It's been six year since he left his family behind because he can't stand going back and see her after the heartbreak he went through. Now, he's stuck in a job he hates and a society he dislikes even more, not to mention his girlfriend he does not love. He's haunted by nightmares and is almost suffocating in guilt/shame/heartbreak.

Do you feel the angst yet?

When Will gets a call from home where his aunt is dying of cancer, and that soon, he must decide if he can risk going back home. He might see her, the cause of all his heartbreak. He goes home, fear of missing seeing his aunt one last time. He comes home to a family he abandoned six years ago with all of them wondering what happened to him and if he's all right, but they're almost strangers to him now. Then, just hours after he meets his aunt, she dies.

Do you feel the angst yet?

After the aunt's funeral Will is greeting the people coming by their house when suddenly, he sees her. Add a boy who's strikingly similar to Will and, say, around six years old. Will just must talk toher and demand answers, so he rushes her down the street as she hurries away from him. When he reaches her she acts as if he's going to hurt her, because, you know, her father was abusive. William is struck with guilt, because he would never, ever, hurt her, and hates that he made her react that way. Then she hurries away with the young boy, leaving Will behind.

Do you feel the angst yet?

Then we find out she is Maggie. Enter Maggie six years ago: her mother is abused by Maggie and her sister's father. Somehow she also - despite her strong will not to - enters a relationship with an abusive partner at eighteen. Then, one night, William stands up for her when her boyfriend treats her bad in public, but everything quiets down soon, but Maggie can't forget Will. Then, coming from a poor family, she takes a job as a cleaning help, hired by Will's family. Here she gets to know Will a little better while staying together with her boyfriend, even if he treats her badly when Will is so kind, because she doesn't deserve someone like Will.

Do you feel the angst yet?

I could go on here about all the angst and heartbreak, because I've reached about 40% if what happens in When We Collide. What happens is that when Will intends to leave again for school (I think, might be for a job, I don't really remember) Maggie stays behind because of reasons, which leads to Will's misery as well as Maggie's for the coming six years. The story is told between past and present so we don't miss any of the misery and experience all the angst. It's worth mentioning that In the present Maggie is still with her abusive boyfriend. I knew getting into this book it would be about domestic abuse, and I believe it's important books like this exist to teach people these types of relationships exist. In the aspect of the abuse When We Collide does a good job painting it in a realistic way, at least in the present. It doesn't romanticize or glorify it in any way, like some other books does. The story is well written even if badly paced, and altering between Will's POV and Maggie's. However, it's manipulative, throwing angst in your face at every page, never letting the reader forget even for a moment how terrible Will and Maggie's lives are. It almost demands you to feel sorry for these characters.

But, I actually felt very little for either Maggie or Will. And before you start accusing me for being heartless, I did feel for them at times. I had different reasons for not feeling so much for Maggie and Will, and I'll stat with Will.

1. We never get to know him. For me to feel for a character I must understand who he/she is, and this never quite happened with Will. I have no idea he is without Maggie in the present. And I understand that she's a big part of him after everything that went down between them. However, I don't know who he wasbefore Maggie either. He's just a big, gray, blob of guilt and shame and longing/want for Maggie. I'm sorry, but he's never introduced so the reader truly knows him as a person on his own. 
2. Less thinking, more action. Will's not even less talk and more action. What Will does is think, think, then think some more. And it's always about how he can protect/save Maggie from her demons. It takes almost the whole book (which was long) for him to actually step up and do a thing. Throughout the whole story I believe he thought about calling the cops one, maybe twice. I can't even say if he's a coward, weak or something else, but I kept shouting at him in my hand to do something, anything. It's tiring to read about a person who's biggest wish in life is to save this other person, but not do a single thing about it.

And Maggie... Okay, so it's general knowledge (or should be) that it's hard for a person in a relationship where domestic abuse exist to get out of said relationship. But really, Maggie had so many chances to get out of it, both in the past and present. Not to mention her determination to not go down the same way her mother did. When she had her son you'd think she be more intent on getting him away from the boyfriend, but Maggie makes few attmepts over the course of six years to free herself and her son from the misery. Maybe it was just me, but it came off a bit... odd, for lack of better wording.

While I didn't dislike this book, I didn't like it either. I liked it for what it offered, but it could've been done better in some aspects. Compared to many other books (mostly NA) this is definitely one of the better, and I refuse to give it two stars or less, because it deserves as much, even if that doesn't match the GR rating system. It's a heavy book with a tough subject, but it is done with care. What it comes down to is that When We Collide is a good, sometimes provoking, book with lacking in character development and just a bit too manipulative at times.