Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 27, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Diversity, Own Voices
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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.
Isn’t it the best thing when you pick up a book unexpectedly and you end up really enjoying it? Emergency Contact piqued my interest because it’s about a Korean-American girl who starts her first year of college, and a soft boy who has just broken up with his ex-girlfriend who works (and lives) at the local coffee shop. It ended up being exactly what I needed in between some heavier fantasy reads and I really enjoyed it!
5 Things I Liked About Emergency Contact
1. Penny and Sam felt so real
I love how both Penny and Sam are introverts, quirky, but also intensely passionate about the things that they care about, and they find an unlikely soul in each other. As complex characters, Penny and Sam felt like real people struggling with different aspects of their life – Penny, with fitting in with her roommates and her strained relationship with her young mother, and Sam, with the repercussions of his ex-girlfriend who comes back into his life in the most unexpected way – causing him to have anxiety.
2. The way they connected with each other
Both Penny and Sam are slightly awkward, but when Penny unexpected stumbles upon Sam having a panic attack, she becomes his lifeline or “emergency contact”. It was super cute seeing them connect through text messages, getting to know each other before pursuing any romantic intentions. I loved the bond they developed with each other and how they curbed their loneliness by talking with each other on a daily basis. Each milestone – from texting, to calling, to seeing each other in person felt like a huge progression in their relationship and it was super cute.
3. The college/work setting of the book
The college setting of the book is also a welcome change from most YA romances set in high school – lending more credence to how they connect through text messaging. Many YA books focus on graduation and going to college as a big part of “making it”, whereas Penny has just started her first year of college, showing that there are still struggles when it comes to a huge part of your life changing so much. With Sam working at the cafe for a living, being passionate about baking doesn’t equate to an immediate successful career.
4. How they’re both just figuring out life
Not only is there a lot to unpack when it comes to the situations they find themselves in, but Penny and Sam are both just figuring out life and how they fit into their new struggles and situations. With her awkward, pricky personality, Penny is struggling to fit in with her new friends at college and Sam has anxiety from dealing with his ex-girlfriend. Reading about these two characters and their daily struggles felt so realistic, showing that not everyone has life figured out just because they go to college, or because they have a job. Life doesn’t just stand still and it’s a constantly evolving web of challenges.
5. The #ownvoices representation
As a Korean-American, Penny deals with particular expectations when it comes to her heritage. The book delves into commentary about racism, sex, class and having a young single parent, which was refreshing to read about.
Emergency Contact is a quirky, thoughtful slice-of-life book where two young, introverted souls connect through text messaging. While the book doesn’t have a strong plot, I loved the quirkiness of it and the multi-layered, well-rounded characterisation of both Penny and Sam. 3
Trigger warnings: rape (past), panic attack, racism, anxiety
Rating: 4 out of 5
Check out Aila’s review here.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for sending me a review copy!
Emergency Contact is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$17.99 or from the Book Depository.
Giveaway – Australians only
To celebrate the release of Emergency Contact, we’re giving away a copy to a lucky reader of Happy Indulgence! This giveaway is only open to Australians only and the prize will be sent out from the publisher. Giveaway ends 31 Janaury 2019 and winner will be emailed directly. Verified entries only – fake entries will be disqualified!
Fill in the form below to enter the giveaway:
About the Author
Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York Times, GQ, Wired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs, and is a culture correspondent for VICE News Tonight on HBO. She is the author of the YA novels Emergency Contact and Permanent Record. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @choitotheworld
Follow the Emergency Contact blog tour here!
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ahhh I’ve heard so many mixed reviews but my sister loved this so I’m super curious! Great review–I’ve totally persuaded (and a college/work setting rather than high school sounds like a breath of fresh air!)
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I read this last week and found it alarmingly relatable, as a teen in university who texts a lot of people. It felt like this book totally got me…and it made me really want to write. So I’m totally on board with all of your points here!
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Loved how you did your review. I’m liking the sound of this one and glad you enjoyed it.
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Wonderful review, Jeann! <3 I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed that one, it was one of my favorite reads from last year and, well, ever. I just loved the characters so much and how their relationship developed from strangers to friends to more was so endearing and I adored it SO much <3
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I absolutely ADORED THIS ONE. I didn’t expect it to quite steal my heart so fast?! It was everything and more ahhh. I loved the writing classes too, where Penny spoke up as well and the teacher told the student writers to sit back adn really think about how they represent diversity. That was a brilliant scene. And Sam being so soft and sweet…afjdksad. I was just waiting for his hair to get fluffy for Penny. Which is the weirdest thing to type out of context, but you know what I mean hahaa.