Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi
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Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Length: 391 pages
Times Read: Once
Rating: This is how all NA books should be written!
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
What I Liked: I really enjoyed these awkward little weirdos and their slow-(seriously, sloooooooow) burn romance.
Seriously, so awkward
♥ Penny. Penny is a very relatable awkward. She didn’t have the same level of social anxiety as Cath from Fangirl, but she didn’t make friends easily in high school, and struggled when she got to college. Her roommate, Jude, is super friendly and open, and Jude’s best friend Mallory is sullen and honestly sort of racist. Over time, they end up becoming friends, but Penny always has a hard time understanding why they want to be her friend.
♥ Sam. Truthfully, I liked Sam more than I liked Penny. Penny could be cold and harsh, but Sam, I understood. He perfectly encapsulated that time when you’re freshly out of a relationship with someone, and the second you start to get over them, they reappear. Sam knows his ex is a cheater, he knows she’s bad for him, but he still has a hard time staying away. He’s had a shit life, he’s dirt poor, and he wants to be a documentary filmmaker, but for now bakes delicious treats for the coffee shop that he lives above and works in.
And who doesn’t love a delicious treat?
♥ Alternating narrators. This worked super well in this book, because Penny and Sam are hardly ever in the same place, and most of the story takes place in their heads.
♥ The cover is to-die-for beautiful. And the gold and pink color in person is just gorgeous.
♥ The discussion about writing. Penny is taking a fiction-writing course, and her professor poses some really interesting questions and discussion. We also got to see snippets of the big story Penny was working on, again sort of like Fangirl.
♥ The texts. Sam and Penny both need the safety of their digital relationship for different reasons, and it works really well for them. They’re able to share their deepest insecurities and dreams for the future over the phone, and they support each other. They begin to lean on each other, to need each other. I can so clearly remember how that feels, when you’re starting to fall for someone and all you want to do is see what they have to say, day in and day out. To feel like you can’t take a step without your phone in case they text you.
Sam and Penny never stopped either
What I Didn’t: I did love the book, but I have a few quibbles.
⊗ The beginning. There’s a lot of unnecessary set up in the first few chapters. Penny getting a new iPhone, getting annoyed with her mom, talking to her boyfriend who she clearly didn’t care about, arriving at college, rearranging her toiletries in the bathroom…it was a lot, and we didn’t need it.
⊗ Penny’s constant irritation with her mom. The author waits a really long time to disclose exactly where her anger stems from, so we spend most of the book thinking that Penny hates so much of what her mother says and does because she’s flirty and wants to talk to her daughter about cute boys.
⊗ The THING Penny finally confesses. The THING is awful, and it definitely shaped Penny and her relationships, especially in how she blames her mother for part of it. So while we get a little more insight into her anger towards her mom, the THING is never mentioned again. It was a really good opportunity to have a real conversation about this serious issue, but instead it’s sort of just mentioned and then forgotten about.
Final Thoughts: Despite a few criticisms, this was a really good book, especially for a debut. It’s a great look into how relationships work in this digital age. This book is what I always hope the NA genre will be, and so rarely actually is.
Favorite Quotes: “It’s piles and piles of emotional homework forever if you ever want to qualify as a grown-up”
“Penny had been writing all the time, for years now. She’d never stopped even if she showed no one. Stories, lists of ideas, and strange chunks of amusing dialogue that came to her while she ignored whatever else was going on in her actual life. She knew she was decent. Only she wanted more.”
“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.”