Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

About the Book

Release Date: March 27, 2018 | Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | My Rating: 3.5/5 stars


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.


“Loving someone was traumatizing. You never knew what would happen to them out there in the world. Everything precious was also vulnerable.” 

I saw this book while I was browsing the bookstore two weeks ago, read the synopsis, and decided it was something I wanted to try. I don’t read contemporary often, but I’m happy the few I pick up are books with PoC main characters. This story was really adorable, the characters were easy to root for, and I loved the focus on Penny and Sam’s relationships with other people in their lives.

Emergency Contact alternates between Penny and Sam’s POV and I enjoyed that. There were times I felt more interested in Sam’s POV because his problems were a little more mature, but overall I enjoyed both perspectives. What I loved most about Emergency Contact was the diversity. Penny is Korean American, Sam is German, and the side characters are from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. I loved how the author challenged stereotypes Penny encountered either through her internal dialogue or direct confrontation.

I loved that this book doesn’t only focus on the budding romance between the two characters. Both characters have absent fathers, unreliable mothers, and feel alone as they navigate their world. With Penny, we see this tumultuous and complicated mother-daughter relationship as well her struggles to make friends. What she learns about herself throughout the novel really gave Penny a chance to experience meaningful friendships and learn to accept the fact that people want to befriend her. With Sam, there’s an unhealthy romantic relationship, his alcoholic mother, and other friendships from his past that contribute to his unfortunate circumstance.

I rated Emergency Contact 3.5 stars for a couple of reasons. I didn’t like the overuse of text speak. Not only were the text messages difficult to follow at times, but I found it kind of annoying. I liked the writing, but there were times when I couldn’t keep up with the dialogue. A couple times, I re-read a page or a few sentences because I didn’t know who said what. I was also confused about how much time passed between the events. Was it days? Weeks? Months?This was a cute story with YA characters and relatable adult issues. At it’s core, this book is about relationships – absent fathers, unreliable mothers, unhealthy relationships, and friendships.

If you’re in the mood for a contemporary novel with a PoC protagonist, slow-burn romance, and college-aged characters, you’ll enjoy this.

Have you read Emergency Contact? If so, what were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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4 thoughts on “Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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