Tuesday, May 15, 2018

BOOK REVIEW | Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Series? No
Pages: 394
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: I received an e-galley of Emergency Contact via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. :) Thank you!
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.

Emergency Contact is Mary HK Choi's debut YA novel. I was on the fence on reading this for a while, but decided to give it a go and downloaded it from Netgalley. I'm glad I decided to take the plunge, because I immensely enjoyed Emergency Contact. 

  I had a hard time getting into this book. I was able to have the arc for 50 days, and I sat around page 50 for quite a while. However, once I got past the 100 page mark, the plot really started flowing. The exposition and world-building was a bit slow, but I was hooked once Penny and Sam actually became emergency contacts. If you are struggling to get through the book but haven't made it to that plot point, keep in mind that the book really picks up after that!

One thing that I really loved about Emergency Contact was the dual point of views. The book was told in Sam and Penny's point of views. Sometimes two POV's don't work out: the characters think too same, the reader can't differentiate between the two, and they characters seem one-dimensional. Luckily, this wasn't the case! Sam and Penny are different and they're voices are distinct. I loved reading from both of them, and both of their POVs brought something new to the table. I will say though, that I liked Penny's voice more. She started college in this book; I was recently finishing my first year, and we had similar anxieties about school, so I instantly liked her. Sam was a bit harder to connect with, but I ended up really liking him. 

Since Penny is starting college, there are several scenes focusing on her schoolwork, which I really liked. Penny is in a writing class, and throughout the book we get to read excerpts from a short story of hers. I loved that we got to read some of Penny's work. There seems to be a trend in YA with making main characters readers, writers, or bloggers, and this was the most genuine take on that trend. Normally whenever the trope pops up, it seems like the author is just using that information to throw a bone to the readers in hopes that they will like the main character more, but this wasn't the case for Emergency Contact. I loved reading about Penny's struggles with writing, and how she grew as a writer throughout the novel.  

Emergency Contact also focuses on family and friendships. Penny and Sam both have difficult relationships with their mothers, and I appreciated that it was a plot point. While I liked the relationship with Penny and her mother, I wish that Sam's relationship with his mother was further explained and explored. I appreciate the effort, but wish that there was at least one more scene between Sam and his mother, or even a scene with Sam just talking about his relationship with his mother with Penny. In my opinion, the friendships were handled better. Sam doesn't have that many friends, and Penny really only interacts with two people: her roommate Jude, and her best friend, Mallory. Even though Jude and Mallory weren't too present in the book, I loved any scenes with them. Despite being secondary characters, they seemed fleshed out and were great additions to the narrative.

If you don't know by now, I love romance. Slow burn, best friends, love to hate, you name it, I love it! In Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam become close friends after she becomes her Emergency Contact. It takes a while for anything to happen, but the pining was adorable. Both Penny and Sam aren't sure what to make of their feelings, what to do, and how to act upon them. Seeing them traverse these crushes was adorable, and the relationship was worth the wait.

The last thing I wanted to mention were the trigger warnings for Emergency Contact. There is mention of sexual assault and rape. The book doesn't go into a lot of detail, but be prepared to read about that. I wasn't expecting sexual assault and rape to be a part of this book, so I was definitely caught unaware. I do think it was handled very well, but I would have liked to know before I picked the book up.

If you couldn't tell from my review, I loved Emergency Contact. I thought it was an accurate (and hilarious) representation of college. When I read New Adult, it's entertaining, but my college experience is nothing like Beautiful Disaster or Easy. Out of the two point of views, I enjoyed Penny's more. Sam was great, but Penny seemed much more real. The romance was so cute and the opposite of insta-love. While there was insta-attraction, the romance was a slow burn, which is right up my alley and very well executed. Though I would have liked to have more focus on Sam's relationship with his mother, it didn't negatively effect my reading experience that much.

With that,
I give this book 
4.5 out of 5 Stars! 

Here are some of my favorite quotes.  Since I am reviewing an ARC copy, keep in mind that these quotes might have changed, are no longer in the book, or are at a different point of the novel. Also, the images are a tad big, so if you want to see them in all their glory (and not fuzzy) just click on them. :)  

page 293 of ARC

page 289 of ARC
page 333 of ARC
Some of my other favorite quotes! (that I didn't make graphics for)

"He cleared his throat and shoved his hands in his back pockets. His left hand found his glasses. Ugh. Worst glasses. Ugh. Worst glasses ever. He couldn't believe she'd seen him in them. Not that it mattered. Setting as she had a boyfriend (!!!) but still."
(ARC page 218)

"Once Penny had essentially memorized the full collection of MzLolaXO's eight thousand photographs and mentally written every manner of excruciating fiction about the fabulousness other life and the two of them in bed, she was convinced of what had happened. It was obvious. They were together again. He was simply too embarrassed to tell her. In fact, they'd eloped in Marfa, where they now lived inside the Prada store with their freakishly attractive baby, who would roll out of Lorraine's womb covered in tattoos and wearing the coolest vintage sunglasses.

Damn that rockstar baby."
(ARC page 237)


  1. Gennifer! I have seen this book all over the internet. I am glad you liked it! Your review was delightful. Sam and Penny sound wonderful. I do like what you said about Penny's writing sounding believable. I think the only book I have read with tangible writing woes was Fangirl. It's my favorite. Still, this sounds intriguing. I hope Sam's creativity also got explored in a fair light, because film is such a wonderful yet challenging medium. Plus, I really want stories about male content-creators or creative minds. We need to break down these gender expectations. It's nice to stop by your blog. I am going have to visit more often. Can't wait to see what you write next. :)

    1. Hi Dina! First, thank you for your lovely comment. :D

      I actually have not read Fangirl, or any Rainbow Rowell book. Honestly, the hype was overwhelmed me. Sam's filmmaking was explored! I do think Penny's writing spoke more to me, but that might be due to my bias towards Penny in general. Sam starts making a documentary during the film, and his subject was really entertaining. I would love to have a whole Sam-centered book where we see more of his mother and his artistry! Most of his chapters were dedicated to his tumultuous relationship with his ex-girlfriend, or his friendship with Penny. I would love to see more of his character!

      I completely agree with you about gender expectations. It's interesting to see, because we generally push creativity towards females. However, if you look at films for instance, men exceedingly are awarded for their efforts!

      I'm going to have to visit yours more often as well! It was great seeing you. :)

  2. I'm so glad you liked this one Gennifer!

    Tbh I enjoyed it as well but not as much as you, ultimately giving it a 3.5 star. I didn't quite agree with some of the humor of the story (I get that it's a more intense, slice of life story, but still lol) and I really disliked Sam's character in general. When I read contemporary books (especially ones in college because I'm the same age as the characters!) I want to be able to like the love interest, and unfortunately Emergency Contact did not deliver. Nonetheless, I'm still glad this was a hit for you! And I enjoyed Penny's character as well. :)

    - Aila @ One Way Or An Author

    1. Thanks Aila!

      Humor is a hard one to get right, honestly! People have such different tastes in humor, so I definitely understand if the jokes fell flat. I will say, I didn't like Sam nearly as much as Penny. I did like reading about him, but I don't know if I would want to be his friend in real life! I'm in college too, so it's always great to connect with the characters!

      Thanks for stopping by Aila!

  3. I've seen mixed reviews for this one but mostly disappointed ones. But still really excited to read this because reviews I like, including you now, gave this positive thoughts :)

    1. That's a shame that some were disappointed. Happily, it worked otu for me! :) I hope you love it czai!!!

  4. Those quotes may have convinced me to read this one! For whatever reason I haven't been giving it much attention.

    1. I'm glad the quotes worked! It's definitely worth the attention. :) Thanks for stopping by Kay!