Contemporary (Teen), Romance (Teen)

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

A YA contemporary novel about finding solace in a kindred spirit while determining one's identity.


Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.


I rarely read contemporaries because my usual go-to genres are either fantasy or thrillers. However, the cover and description for this book intrigued me enough that I wanted to try it. Here is my review:

Emergency Contact book cover

Emergency Contact

by Mary H.K. Choi

Published February 27, 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 1534408967

Data from Goodreads

Summary (Goodreads): 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: Highly Enjoyable Contemporary

I wasn’t expecting to like this novel as much as I did. But I actually could not pull myself away from this book!

The Pros: What worked for me

  • I think that the characters in this book were absolutely brilliant in that they were very different from each other but easy to relate to. Their way of thinking isn’t something that is so out of the ordinary, it’s just the way they express themselves that is so unique.
  • I liked that the author used text messages as the main platform for their communication; any time an author uses a different medium and structures passages from their books in that format, I love it.
  • This novel didn’t have a super speedy plot. It was definitely a slow burner but that meant there was plenty of time for the relationship to develop between Penny and Sam. I think that in order for the romance, which is the main focus of the story, to develop properly, it needed to take as much time as it did to be successful.

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • The author creates two characters that have a whole bunch of other issues and traumas in their life. Slowly, we find out what these traumatic incidents/issues are … but they don’t get properly addressed or resolved. They are put in there to explain certain aspects of behaviour, but are easily dismissed or “fixed”. This annoyed me a bit because it’s a very unrealistic portrayal of how people cope and change over time. If you’re going to include these details, then at least have them addressed appropriately
  • I also felt that there were times when the author was trying too hard to sound like a teenager. If you have to try to sound believable, then you’re probably not doing it right. There were also certain comments made by characters that was a bit inappropriate.

Despite these issues, I still really enjoyed this novel. It exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways and it was an engrossing story. I fell for the characters and their romance, so for those reasons, I‘m giving this a 4/5 stars.

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11 thoughts on “Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

  1. I just received this one and am so excited to hop into it! It sounds sososo cute and I am a sucker for people that bond over messaging online, literally one of my favorite tropes! I’m so happy to hear you loved this one! Lovely review 🙂

    1. It has some deep moments, too, which I really liked about it! And the MCs are so quirky that it’s hard not to love them! Can’t wait to read your review!

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