Courtney Luk
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Book Reviews

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Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi


Mary H. K. Choi’s YA debut novel Emergency Contact starts with Penny Lee going away to college, making this book perfect for older readers of the genre. We are no longer in high school but get a taste of freshman year in a completely different context. Penny’s roommate, Judy, is the pinnacle of a spoiled rich girl. Judy’s best friend, Mallory, is by association, a roommate, as the two friends are basically attached at the hip.

Much of the emotional and romantic inclinations are similar to those of younger people. I mean, college freshmen were just high schoolers four months ago. Penny is a sci-fi/fantasy writer and still feels like the “goth kid.” Penny is regimented, waking up early to write while Judy is asleep, attending all her classes, and of course avoiding her really vicarious mother Chloe.

However, when Judy invites Penny to the coffee shop, she meets Judy’s uncle, Sam, a young twenty-something taking film classes to become a director. Sam has tattoos. Sam is older. Sam wears the same shoes as Penny. Penny is in awe. But none of Judy’s friends can date her uncle (though he is no longer, as that divorce happened a while back)! That’d be weird.

When Penny finds Sam in deep distress one night, she takes care of him and brings him to the coffee shop, which, unbeknownst to Penny, is his home. From then on, they become each other’s emergency contact. They talk about what they’re working on and their lives, especially when one needs an ear to listen (or read—most of their communication is via text, which does sometimes get a tad confusing).

It’s sweet how they rely on one another and we see their relationship blossom into one of dependency, though it fosters reliance as the foundation of their romance, which made me wonder how healthy this whole thing is. But I fell for it anyway! They’re each other’s rocks, and once they meet again in person, their relationship becomes more real rather a strange Internet-type of romance. This novel is definitely character-driven, though there are plaguing obstacles the two deal with together and separately. If you’re into a book with a witty voice that makes you laugh at the seriousness of life’s woes and love artistic quirk, you’d be totally hooked by Emergency Contact. Escape from your own worries, and dive into theirs. At least for 400 pages.

Find Emergency Contact here.