Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Published in: 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Emergency Contact is a young adult fiction novel about a college freshman named Penny who was somewhat of a wallflower in high school, and Sam, a young man who works in a coffee shop. After they meet by chance and exchange numbers to be each other’s “emergency contact”, they develop feelings for each other while getting to know each other through text. Both characters are vulnerable, and the chapters alternate through both their perspectives and give the reader a nice window into their psyche. What stood out to me right away was the clever voice of the author and how she chose the characters would see the world around them. In this way even though some parts of the story we’re slow, they weren’t boring or repetitive to what I’ve heard before in this genre. It made me pay attention instead of going into autopilot when I was reading. This clever voice was included in both Penny and Sam’s chapters which in some ways made them sound similar but also showed that they were perfect for each other.
Their romance felt refreshing because it didn’t feel like either one of them thought of themselves as the main character in a rom-com, they are both in vulnerable places in their lives. Penny doesn’t have many friends and is trying to find her place. Sam is trying to get back on his feet and for the first half of the book, is dealing with a pregnancy scare with his ex-girlfriend. Both were well developed and (especially Penny) had a self-awareness arc. This made both characters feel really lovable.
Besides the romance, the story has other themes, 2 of the strongest being mother/child relationships and technology. Penny and Sam both have strained relationships and pent up anger towards their mothers. They both have a meeting or confrontation with them at the end of the book that ends very differently for the 2 of them. The writing if these felt realistic. Especially that their home lives had affected who Penny and Sam were as people and weren’t forgotten for the sake of focusing on the young romance storyline. The technology was also another big theme as their relationship is formed mostly over text. Both of these themes come together in a story Penny writes for her creative literature class. Lovable supporting characters that I unexpectedly enjoyed was Penny’s roommate Jude who is Sam’s niece. At the beginning of the book through penny’s eyes, Jude came across frivolous and shallow but at the end, the reader and Penny can see her for who she is, someone trying to make friends in a new place who is loyal and kind. This is part of Penny’s arc of not pushing others away and giving them a chance. Overall I enjoyed this book. I would say I other readers will love it also. It’s a romance with a twist and complex characters, and clever language with tongue-in-cheek humor.
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