Emergency Contact

Emergency Contact


Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Series: N/A

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 27th 2018

Rating:

Five Stars

“Smart and funny, with characters so real and vulnerable, you want to send them care packages. I loved this book.” —Rainbow Rowell

From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory—perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

For Penny Lee high school was a total non-event. 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.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“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.”

Penny can’t wait for the escape college life is offering her; away from the nonlife she is currently living where her only friend moved away and her boyfriend doesn’t know her, and away from her mother who Penny can’t relate to. Sam is down on his luck; living in an empty storeroom upstairs from the café where he works after breaking up with his cheating girlfriend. All he wants is to pass his online film course, but with no money and a dying laptop it’s hard

Emergency Contact made it onto my radar solely because of Marie and the incredible review she wrote for it. I had high hopes and I wasn’t let down. This was very much a character driven book, focusing on the issues Penny and Sam individually have which they struggle with together throughout the story. The first time Penny and Sam meet it’s a non-event, and it seems like Penny is destined to be nothing more than Sam’s niece’s college roommate.

“He couldn’t believe Jude’s mute, macabre roommate had saved his life. He wondered if he’d have to get her a small taxidermied spider or something for her efforts.”

When his ex comes back into Sam’s life to drop a bombshell on his shoulders it sends him spiralling. He starts having a panic attack and its Penny who finds him and makes sure he’s all right. Sam opens up to Penny in a way he hasn’t been able to with anyone else, and they become each other’s emergency contact, the person they can speak to when things get too much for them alone.

Through Penny and Sam’s journey in this book the author highlights a lot of important issues; poverty, unplanned pregnancy, mental health and sexual assault to name a few. As Penny and Sam speak, at first only through text messages, you get a feel for how they’re struggling on their own and how the lifeline they’ve found in each other is one that’s sorely needed.

…The Characters

“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.”

Penny realised when she was younger that between her and her mother she was the responsible one, the ‘adult’, and this put a lot of weight on her shoulders. Penny sees university as an escape, the light at the end of the tunnel where she can escape her mother and their strange relationship. Despite the put-together exterior she has Penny is not as confident and sure as she seems, but she’s not afraid to call people out and speak her mind about whatever it is that comes to mind.

“Sam wanted to tell Penny everything. He wanted a record of his thoughts and feelings and stories to exist with her. Like a time capsule for this strange period of his life. With her, he felt less lonely.”

Sam is at a real low point when we meet him but he’s trying to make things better, to put his life back together again. He’s cut a lot of people out of his life, including his ex who, despite his feelings for her still, he realises wasn’t good for him. When Lorraine drops her bombshell it throws Sam, but also gives him a different perspective to look towards. Sam closes himself off from a lot of the people reaching out to him, wanting to seem put-together in their eyes and not a mess.

The relationship between Penny and Sam is the very definition of slow burn. When they first meet Penny is attracted to Sam but she barely speaks two words to him, and Sam is still hung up on his ex. It’s only when the two start texting back and forth, as they each share more and more of their life and their issues with the other, that you see their relationship grow. Both Penny and Sam confide in each other things they’ve never told anyone else.

“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.”

For most of this book Penny and Sam’s dynamic is contained to their texts, while the trust and feelings and emotions are all growing it’s confined to a small bubble of them and their phones. Despite already having met face to face a couple of times both of them are hesitant about taking what they have developing through their texts outside into the real world.

The side relationships in this book were also amazing; especially the relationships both Sam and Penny have with their individual mothers. Penny has nothing in common with her mum, and almost seems to look down on her irresponsibility. She doesn’t seem to want anything to do with her mum now she’s in college but her mum is still reaching out to her. The relationship Sam has with his mother is somewhat darker; the two grew up in poverty and a lot of his childhood with his mother defines Sam’s journey in this book.


Emergency Contact definitely exceeded the expectations I had for it. On the surface it seems like it will be a sweet contemporary story focusing on Penny and Sam’s growing relationship, but the more you read the more you discover it’s so much more than that. The ending was left open, which I loved because there’s rarely a ‘happily ever after’ in real life, and this story felt very real to me.

What did you think of Emergency Contact? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

19 thoughts on “Emergency Contact

  1. Hello Beth! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this book! This is one of my favourite YA contemporaries this year. I also enjoyed the subtle, slow-burning romance between Penny and Sam, and I loved that there is also a focus on the other relationships in their lives as well, such as with their friends and their families. I loved the ending of the book because it is left up to interpretation and it isn’t a perfect happily ever after 🙂 Great review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it was amazing, and yeah kind of in the running for one of my favourite contemporaries of the year. This is kind of what I want to see in more contemporaries, the slow burn relationship and the emphasis on Sam and Penny’s relationships outside of each other kind of added to their individual character development right?
      We need more contemporaries that have endings like this one too, show that not everything has to be happily ever after to have a happy ending.
      Thanks so much. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I absolutely want to see more of these things in contemporary YA since they are much more realistic! Romance is a small part of people’s everyday lives and there are other relationships that are important too. As much as I love happy endings I like that this one is left up to interpretation. I am wondering if this is a more realistic novel because it is written for a slightly older audience (Penny and Sam are both college-age) rather than the typical YA book. Could it be that fast-paced romances with perfect HEAs are just a quality of the YA genre?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah as much as I love fluffy YA contemporary books it can be just as nice to have stories like these which have a little more realism to them. That makes sense as well, I feel like compared to a lot of other contemporary books this one did deal with more mature subjects, maybe if was more NA than YA you know?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, this one definitely deals with more mature subjects. I’ve only read a few NA books but I thought they were almost erotica? Lol this might just be my experience and there could be other types of NA books.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. AHH BETH I am so, so happy you read and loved this book as much as I did and that I could convince you to read it – thank youuu so much for mentioning me! ❤ ❤ I really loved this story so, very much, I loved how character-driven it was and appreciated how the romance slowly grew between the characters, it felt really well-developed and genuine and I loved them so, very very much ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie. ❤ Yeah after some of the amazing things I heard about it (mainly from your review, and that's all right <3) I had high hopes but it was a great read. I loved the slow romance because it gave the characters a chance to develop individually before they were thrown together, and there was so much emotion to both of them. My heart literally ached for Sam and Penny while reading this. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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