Book Talk: Emergency Contact


Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books


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.

My Review:

“People were odd. Sam loved and loathed that about them. Fiction was fine, but real life was the true freak show.”

I think I’ve found one of my all time favorite contemporaries. I’m not even kidding, I love this book. I absolutely love it. Like, Maybe-I’ll-Sacrifice-A Pizza-Party-To-Read-It love it. That’s huge.

I started reading Emergency Contact around 6 PM last evening, immediately after finishing Freeks by Amanda Hocking, and finished it around 4 AM in the morning. My eyes are still bleeding. Characters getting to know each other through texting is one of my favorite tropes so obviously, I was already extra hyped about the book.

Guys, 5% into the book and I was hooked because of the humor and the witty narrative. It reminded me of the narration of Nice Try, Jane Sinner. It was witty, sardonic and hilarious. I’m trying so hard to lay out my thoughts comprehensively but, honestly, all I want to do is hug the book and yell SQUEEEE.


Why I Love Emergency Contact:

1. The narration. I mean, this book was laugh out loud funny. I was cracking up and laughing loudly every 5 minutes. Both Penny and Sam have a smart mouth; they’re incredibly witty, funny and have a dark, dismissive sense of humor that I love. There was no way I wouldn’t have been hooked by their voices on the get go.


“Do nothing. Rage cry later in the privacy of your bedroom while listening to The Smiths. You are a dignified pacifist. Namaste.”

“Break up with him. A long-distance relationship based on cataclysmic levels of meh was soul-eating.”


2. The characters. Penny and Sam were brilliant, brilliant characters. They were very well fleshed out, flawed and so incredibly charming (to the readers, at least). Their lives are messed up. I won’t go into too much detail but both of them are struggling through some tough shit and it’s bizarre how the author somehow manages to maintain the seriousness of some scenes and yet handles it in a way that didn’t make them feel necessarily heavy.

3. Penny+Sam= I AM JUMPING ON THIS SHIP. Like I said before, I already love the Texting trope (since I’m a huge texting person myself) but every contact Penny and Sam had was completely OTP worthy. I loved their texts, their thoughts on each other, how they quietly navigated through their complex relationship.

“Even so,” she said. “You’re the best person I’ve ever met. And my favorite.”

“And you’re mine,” he said.

Honestly, I love them together.


4. The book had a lot of relationship parallels which it explored intensively like the relationship between Penny and her Mom, Sam and his Mom, Penny with her other friends (Jude and Mal), Sam with Lola etc. It added a needed depth to the book and fleshed out the story and the characters even more.

5. It was passion oriented! Both Penny and Sam are incredible passionate about their goals. Penny is into writing and Sam is into film-making. I always love contemporaries with certain art themes like Kasie West’s books. But Emergency Contact was a whole new level because it made me fall in love with writing all over again. If you’re an aspiring writer, you should really, really read this book. Penny talks about her writing struggles throughout the book and her classes are actually inspiring for even the people reading the book. Plus, she’s working on her own story which was so interesting.

“It’s a privilege, and part of acknowledging that privilege is doing it honorably. Create diverse characters because you can. Especially ones that aren’t easy to write. A character that scares you is worth exploring. Yet if you breathe life into a character and it comes to you too easily—say you’re writing from the viewpoint of a black man in America and you’re not one? Think hard about where your inspiration is coming from. Are you writing stereotypes? Tropes? Are you fetishizing the otherness? Whose ideas are you spreading? Really consider how you transmit certain optics over others. Think about how much power that is.”

6. It’s diverse and it talks about diversity. The book talks about a lot of issues loudly and boldly, making you laugh and think.



8. I just really want to write like this author. Please. The best part? The book actually made me want to start writing this very instant, it made me want to be able to write this good, create such characters, conjure such dialogue.

Penny had been writing all the time, for years now. She’d never stopped even if she showed no one. Stories, lists of ideas, and strange chunks of amusing dialogue that came to her while she ignored whatever else was going on in her actual life.

9. I really, really like this book. You have to read it.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Have you read Emergency Contact? Are you planning to read it? What did you think of it?



1 thought on “Book Talk: Emergency Contact”

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