Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Summary: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.
My Thoughts: Emergency Contact is character-driven and complex YA Contemporary, with so much heart and depth! Through Choi’s writing, Emergency Contact handles and discusses a number of difficult subjects, develops a dynamic cast of characters, and delivers a romance like no other!
Okay so originally I got an ARC of Emergency Contact, but at the times I really wanted to read it, school just got so busy! So when my library copy came, after about being maybe 100+ pages in, I decided to start it over.
I’m so glad I did because while I really loved it the first time, taking the time to re-read & catch-up had me even more invested in Emergency Contact than I was before!!
I adored Emergency Contact so much & if your familiar with my blog, you’ll know I hardly read contemporary romances. But from the summary (& amazing cover!! ♥♥) I knew I had to read this book!
And this YA Contemporary has easily made it to my list of all-time favorites!!
This novel follows 2 POVs with the 1st being: 18 yr. old Penny Lee, who is about to start her first year of college in Austin, Texas and dreams of becoming a writer, then there’ Sam Becker, 21 yrs. old, who works at House Coffee in Austin (+ is an an incredible baker!) and dreams of becoming a documentary filmmaker.
Penny has a difficult relationship with her mom and has felt she’s been forced to grow up on her own. She feels college (in a new state) will make things different for her and allow her the new start she needs.
Sam is stuck. He’s working/living at the coffee house and barley getting by, while also having been neglected by his mother as the years went by and having an absentee father. He also has an ex-girlfriend Lorraine, who’s recently decided to contact him, though he is still trying to get over their break-up.
Penny’s college roommate Jude (and her friend Mallory) decide to take a trip to House and it turns out Sam is Jude’s uncle.
Jude makes it clear to both Penny & Mal that she doesn’t want them to get into any kind of relationship with Sam. Both Jude & Sam are close, so Jude doesn’t want things to be complicated.
However, when Sam’s ex comes back into his life, with news that she may be pregnant, Sam is not sure what to make of the situation and quickly gets overwhelmed.
After having a panic attack, Penny notices him shortly after and decides to help him. Offering to take him to the hospital then back to House, the two talk for a bit & soon form a bond with each other. Then they decide to be each others emergency contacts.
Not long after making sure each of them is okay after that, they begin messaging each other and form an even closer connection via text.
What I loved about Emergency Contact so much was seeing how both Penny & Sam could relate to each other on such an emotional and deep level. They both feel such an intense loneliness and find comfort + solace with each other through the friendship/bond they share by text messaging.
Penny finds it very difficult to connect with people or surround herself with people who really understand her. Because of that, her friendship with Jude + friendship/relationship with Sam has its ups and downs.
I definitely related to Penny at times throughout, but seeing her continue to do her best to connect with Sam and better understand herself was just so beautiful to read!!
Additionally, while its clear that a friendship (and maybe something more) is forming between them, I loved that it really took its time to develop and a majority of this novel is really about Sam and Penny navigating the situations they encounter in life, while finding a deep and personal connection with each other.
Seeing Penny’s relationships change and grow with the people around her, especially her mother Celeste was so well developed and you fully understand their complex relationship by the end of the novel.
Penny and her mom haven’t always had the best relationship. Penny has felt like her mom has never been the mom she’s needed and at a young age had to be independent and do things on her own.
It honestly was so beautiful seeing their relationship grow & develop throughout the entire story! We better understand Celeste and while Penny hasn’t always had the best dynamic with her, its clear there’s room for change.
What really surprised me was the dual POV! Going in I thought it was just going to be Penny’s POV, but having both Penny & Sam’s perspectives really brought so much depth and growth to the characters (especially the one’s they both know/encounter) like Jude.
Overall the 3rd person POV really allowed me to see Sam & Penny grow and develop on their own. Additionally, seeing how they tackled the obstacles in their life & how their relationship really provided them the opportunity to form a deep connection they could never make with anyone else, was just so beautiful!!
From Penny’s POV there was Mal, Andy (her fiction writing classmate; I really like his character & his how his short relationship w/ Penny worked out), J.A. Hansen (her fiction-writing professor), and her mother!
From Sam’s POV there was Lorraine, Al (owner of House), Bastian (a 12-year old who later becomes one of the subjects for his documentary), and his mother as well!
From their very first meet where their practically wearing similar outfits, and later to the relationship they develop through text, it was all just developed so wonderfully! You really see how similar they are + how they really understand each other, and find comfort in their relationship when they both clearly feel lonely + sense of abandonment.
I also really loved the friendship between Mallory, Jude & Penny. While Mal + Penny’s dynamic doesn’t start off too well, seeing their friendship change and grow when they are given time to better know each other was just so great to read!!
What I found also added depth to this story was seeing how different they were through text vs. in-person. Seeing how they allow their relationship to grow through text and noticing how different it is in person just added a completely different layer to the romance and dynamic to Sam & Penny’s relationship!
It was also great to see such diversity/rep. in this YA Contemporary! There’s Penny & her mother who are Korean/Korean-American, there’s J.A. Hansen who’s black, and Bastian who’s Mexican-American!
My only minor issue was some moments of slow pacing, but aside from that this book just went above and beyond my expectations (So, I’m still debating between 4.5 & 5, but I think I’ll end up staying w/ 5)! Its just such a unique and deep YA Contemporary!
Emergency Contact is a raw, character-driven, coming of age YA Contemporary! Real, romantic, witty dialogue, with a unique and moving story, and such emotional depth, makes Mary H.K. Choi’s novel a must read! If your a fan of YA Contemporary or Contemporary Romance, Emergency Contact is a must read! Highly recommend it!!