Book Reviews

EMERGENCY CONTACT BY MARY H.K. CHOI // spoiler-free book review: this book is brilliant & everybody who hates it is wrong, I don’t make the rules!!

Hello, look at me actually writing a review for a YA BOOK?!?! And a contemporary at that. Woweee has it been a while.

But this book is excellent and I adored it and am going to throw it at you all for the rest of eternity.

And yes, you did read correctly. If you hated this book, then your opinion is wrong. I don’t make the rules.

Let’s get into the review!

Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Page count: 394
Date published: 24 March 2018
Genre: New adult coming-of-age contemporary romance


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.


STAR RATING: (5 out of 5 stars)

Idk how she did but we do all need to bow down before Ms Choi.

Literally WTF THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD AND MY HEART IS FULL!!! *insert all the heart eyes*

Trigger warnings for sexual assault, panic attacks, racism & alcoholism

Welp has it been a long time since I’ve loved a YA contemporary. Well, actually any book for that matter. I don’t even think I know how to review 5-star books anymore. No, I’m not having an early-life crisis, what are you talking about??

Anyways, this book. Where do you even begin? It’s one of those books you love everything about yet also have no words to describe? Does that make sense? Probably not but idc.

Let’s start off with the writing because it was… marvellous. Truly. It’s my absolute favourite kind of writing style when it comes to contemporary. Witty and funny but not pretentious and oversaturated. The main characters are both very cynical, which I find amusing, and that shines through in the writing. It’s been ages since I actually laughed out loud and kept going for like a good few minutes. Also LOVED the dual-narrative POV and never got confused between the two of them. It was done so skillfully.

I also wanted to talk about the anxiety representation. It wasn’t brought up or explicitly highlighted in the book but I felt so SEEN. The way that Penny thinks, though probably annoying to some (and I can understand why) but that is me and the way my brain functions. I saw so much of myself in Penny omg. I’ve read quite a few books now with introverted main characters or characters with social anxiety, and though I relate to them on some level, there are always slight differences. But I think with Penny, it’s spot on. I’m introverted and have a small group of friends, but I’m not shy or quiet. This may seem a bizarre point to bring up but I loved that.

Also, I guess I’ll move onto the teen representation. Which was also SPOT ON OMG!! This book is sort of multimedia in a sense, as it contains text messages. Those were perfection. Like I laughed at some of them. It’s how teenagers text. It actually starts off quite funny as Sam starts texting with ‘2’s and ‘u’s and I almost raised my eyebrows. Because idk about you but that is not how most people text. We’re not that lazy anymore lmao. Anyways, moving on, I just loved how much care Mary H.K. Choi put into these young characters, you can really tell she was writing them with thought. They didn’t feel fake or over-dramatic, which SO many authors do. It’s almost as if they’re trying to write for a younger audience yet they’re writing for their own age anyways. If that makes any sense?

We just got way more critical than I intended but there you go.

Also, gotta love that college setting because I CURRENTLY RELATE!!!

Let’s move on to these main characters. Which is probably the most controversial aspect of the book. They are very judgemental and dramatic and annoying. It’s true. But TEENAGERS ARE LIKE THAT!! I’m about the same age as them I think and I was ready to throw hands and defend the teens but,,, there was nothing to defend lmao. I can definitely agree that they’re immature because some of the decisions are not very well thought out, but I definitely think it’s realistic. And also okay. Teenagers are supposed to make mistakes and be stupid. They’re flawed. And I liked that. It actually made them easier to connect to, in my opinion.

I also saw a lot of reviews complaining about unrealistic plot/crazy points etc and I also would like to counter-ague that by asking if you have ever met a young person literally full NOT of nonsense? Nope. I’ve heard some serious CRAZY teen stories and you just have to roll your eyes. Teenagers make plans that fall apart, start rumours that aren’t true, have messy friendships and convoluted relationships. Teen lives are ALWAYS messy. Literally half the time, you can’t believe us. So yeah. You’re all wrong. It had to be said.

This review is becoming long but it’s because I loved this book okay. Just gimme a minute.

Penny and Sam. Sam and Penny. Ugh, I loved them. Like a LOT. Maybe too much, who’s to say. They’re both such strong main characters, with their own distinct and unique personalities. I saw myself mostly in Penny, but I loved that I could see myself in Sam too. I was never disappointed to move from one character to another. The writer and the baker/filmmaker. Such an iconic duo tbh.

ALSO, THE SLOWBURN ROMANCE NEARLY KILLED ME I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!!! Mayhaps one of my favourite parts of the book. However (highlight to see spoiler) I NEEDED an epilogue and I do think that we were robbed. One of my only complaints.

I should… stop talking. By now, I think you can gather that I loved this book. And that you should read it and scream with me. If you’ve already read it, well then you need to reread it and change your opinion oops.

*throws book at your face*

“To be a hero, you had to decide it was you.

“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 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.”

“Fiction was fine, but real life was the true freak show.”

“I want a world where everything lights up because I’m in it”

“You’ve got to understand that not everybody’s going to be exactly your kind of person. They’re not going to be completely satisfactory or meet your myriad qualifications.”

“Let’s just say when I was little and my mom was out, I’d go to bed with a ketchup bottle.”

“I already love this story so much…”

“It was a foolproof plan. If the bad guys came in I could douse myself and they wouldn’t kill me because I was already dead.”

“Jesus, I can’t tell if that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard or the absolute most sad.”

“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.”

“You can be with the same person for a long time and have it be fine and meet someone else who instantly makes you see that it’s broken”

“I want to be with someone I can talk to. I want to be with someone who automatically has a fat folder on me. Someone who feels lucky when I tell them the most unflattering, scary stuff.”

“She smiled.
Sam smiled back.
She died.”

“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.”

“This is probably how emergency contacts work. You say something to your person before you go nuts and blow a gasket.”

The last thing I asked you was “You good?” Well, are you? I think about it all the time.”


Have you read it yet?

Don’t come back until you have!

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*insert villainous evil laugh*




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