Collide, J.R. Lenk
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA, LGBT (B)
Length: 290 pages
The opening line of this book really sums up how I felt about it, so close to being excellent but just falling short. That being said, this book was really good.
In the beginning of this novel we meet 14 year old Hazard, who I must say that outside fantasy has one of the strangest names I’ve come across. The name itself is a source of scorn for Hazard, being on the fringes of popularity.
“He wasn’t super cool, but he wasn’t a loser either.”
The story starts in December of freshman year for Hazard. He really wants to just hang with his best friend Emery, but Emery seems to be ignoring him for Russell, Emery’s other best friend. A chance meeting at a garbage bin introduces Hazard to Jesse Wesley.
“…everyone knew Jesse, and everything he did or said was worshiped in one way or another. He was notorious, and for what, exactly, Hazard couldn’t even think of at the moment.”
Due to his notorious nature Hazard sees talking to Jesse as a way to get Emery to pay more attention to him and to become more cool at the same time. Hazard finds Jesse interesting and when an offer is put forward for Hazard to go to his first party he takes it up. The friendship develops and Hazard enters the world of parties, alcohol, drugs and sex….
What I Really Liked About This Book
A Flawed Protagonist
The story is told primarily from Hazard’s POV with occasional thoughts from others. What I found so very intriguing in Collide is how you can see Hazard’s thought patterns, where he is confused, where he is frightened and where he’s plotting what to say just to be nasty. This beautifully written internal dialogue conveys Hazard as a flawed and naive person who prefers to run away from his problems. The best part is that he doesn’t even realise it. At the beginning of the book Hazard does think his life is good. He loves positive attention and we are given such well contrasting lines like:
“Hazard’s family was the perfect family, except nobody was ever home.”
The relationship that develops between Hazard and Jesse is again deeply flawed. But neither participant wants to push forward or break off the love-hate partnership that emerges. The story keeps progressing further and further into a dismal situation for Hazard and when it finally explodes he is confronted by the fact that he has dug his own grave, albeit with the help of others.
The Realism of a Teenagers World
I have read a few reviews of this book and there seems to be an issue some people have with the use of drugs and alcohol by young people at parties. Hate to break it to you folks but this is what’s actually happening out there with our young brethren. They go to whichever house is free, drink booze, do drugs and make out. Of course, other things happen, like playing Monopoly or Cluedo but in the end they drink booze, do drugs and make out.
Now before every parent that reads this locks up their teenager, this is not the case for everyone. Speaking from personal experience this world exists and is open to pretty much anyone who wants in, I never did drugs and didn’t drink until I was 17 (legal age 18 where I am) however I did co-exist with this world and knew what my friends were doing and would sit with them making sure they didn’t get hurt. As for making out and further sexual activities these too happen within this world oh so frequently. Again not for me so much but that was due more to my horrible gaydar.
Collide presents this underworld brilliantly and brought back many fond and not so fond memories of my teenage years. The realism was staggering, but the part I enjoyed most was how it was shown how this life can have a negative impact on these young people. Unwanted sexual encounters, body damage and physical violence are some of the many effects of this life which all occur within this book.
Treatment of Sex
There are sexual activities in this book which do not normally fall into the Young Adult category. However despite this they were still treated very well, with the encounters between Hazard and other characters being story drivers rather than erotica. This book does not condone sex between minors and shows the consequences in relationships that come from rushed sexual encounters. For these reasons I very much enjoyed how this was treated in the story.
What I Wasn’t Really a Fan Of
The story structure of this novel shifted when I came to the middle. From Chapter 1 the story progresses quite well with a good flow building the story up and up and then we come to a flashback chapter. I don’t have anything against flashbacks, and the information contained within this particular chapter was very useful in gaining a deeper understanding of the various characters that had been introduced throughout the first half of the book. The way it was presented though as a standalone chapter in the middle of the very involving story felt awkward and weird.
Hazard is a quiet character and it would not be his style to be running around telling everyone the stories of his past, but I just felt the various snippets of information could have been better presented through his internal dialogue when appropriate. Instead the reader is left to piece together the various parts of backstory, leading to the realisation that dialogue with a character had been awkward 20 pages ago because of an incident that happened 2 years ago. This style of storytelling is not altogether unpleasant but as mentioned it just took away from the very gripping story.
What really irked me was that after this flashback chapter it felt like the big red button was pressed and we were greeted with descriptions of the main characters like we’d crashlanded and were back in Chapter 1.
Thankfully we’re right back into the story after this, picking up at the same pace that it left off.
Collide is a very good read especially considering the author was 17 when he penned this. What is presented is a gripping story full of characters who you just want to read about more and more. The world is well detailed and feels realistic to the point where you may forget that this is fiction. Despite the drawback I still really enjoyed this book and I was left with a fulfilling story with a satisfying conclusion.
“And midmorning on a pleasant late June day, Hazard was going with Jesse to the bookstore to hang out with Emery…..”