Book Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Goodreads: Emergency Contact
Genre: YA Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Panda Rating:


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.

For some reason, I’m having a really hard time stringing coherent sentences together to write this review. It’s been two days since I finished reading it and I thought that giving it some time to settle in my head would make it easier, but I’m still struggling; and not because I didn’t love it. So, sorry in advance for the rambling gushy review!! Straight up: this was 100% a cover buy. The blurb made the story sound cute, but the cover is what hooked me in. The art work, the pastel pink on white, and that rose gold title text made me want to add this to my shelf ASAP! Now that I’ve read the book, my favorite part of the cover is the fact that the characters depicted on it are 100% accurate of the characters within, and in terribly geeky fashion, when the cover gets it right, it pleases me to no end!

That said, I didn’t really have any expectations when I started reading it, but the story wasn’t anything at all like what I thought it would be. It’s an easy and fast read, told in alternating perspectives between Sam and Penny, and a mix of short text exchanges and paragraphs. When I finished this, all I wanted to do was lie on my bed with that book clutched to my chest and never let it go. The characters made me laugh, cry, get mad and want to give out all the free hugs. Thinking about Penny and Sam–their struggles, their friendship and relationships, and their pretty awkwardly wholesome personalities–actually still makes me want to cry (just a little). Although this could very well be my PMS? Hah, just kidding (sort of). In all realness, there was something so completely pure about both their characters and I felt for them so much throughout the book! This was more than just a cute love story, it was about characters learning about themselves, learning how to navigate college and all the freedom and expectations that this new “adult” life brings. We’ve all been there, some of us are going through that even now, so that made the story and characters very relatable.

“I like knowing that you exist. It doesn’t make me feel any less lonely, because life is lonely, but it makes me feel a lot less alone.”

I loved how Penny and Sam very awkwardly meet and become each other’s ’emergency contacts’. I loved that they texted ALL THE TIME and felt so comfortable being themselves “around each other” and there was no judgement from either. It reminds me a lot of the kind of friendship that I have with my own BFF (who I guess would be my OG EC) in that you can just talk about the silliest, most random things and they get it without you having to explain yourself. While their friendship was adorable, their awkward and dorky flirting was perfection!Thinking of their friendship/relationship and connection fills me up with a giant bubble of warmth!

I admit that I initially struggled with Penny’s character. I found myself really disliking her, not because of her incredibly awkward and seemingly cold personality, but mostly because of how she reacted to her mother, Celeste. How Penny treated Celeste really rubbed me the wrong way; however, as we learn about Penny’s character, we find out why she acts this way, and while it did leave me scratching my head a little, I understood that (however misguided) it does come from a place of love. I’ve been that girl too and seeing that reflected in Penny’s character, especially how her character grows at the end, reminded me a lot of my own relationship with my mum. Then there’s Sam. Sweet(!), mushy, lovable, tattooed(!!), BAKER BOYMAN(!!!), Sam. He was absolutely my favorite and ugh, I just wanted to constantly reach through the book and give him all the hugs! Watching how these two supported and grew together made me feel a little like I was watching my kids grow up, and honestly, I was just so proud!

Also, this book was perfectly quotable. There are so many random, quirky, funny, and relatable passages that I want to share, so the rest of this review is going to be just that!

I know we’re basically just a series of texts. But I’m glad that whatever led you to me happened.

“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.” 

“Penny thought of this Korean saying for when you really, really liked something. You’d say it ‘fit your heart exactly.’ Sam fit her heart exactly.” 

“Penny believed with her whole heart that there were moments – crucial instances – that defined who someone was going to be. There were clues or signs, and you didn’t want to miss them.” 

“It’s piles and piles of emotional homework forever if you ever want to qualify as a grown-up.” 

Have you read Emergency Contact or is it on your TBR?

One thought on “Book Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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