*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
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Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H. K. Choi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Synopsis from 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.
5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads for Mary H. K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. I ripped through this book so quickly, I just couldn’t put it down. These characters are unique, honest, and so tangible. Choi writes characters who could so easily step off the page–Sam is a broke-as-hell film student, covered in tattoos and skinnier than he’d like to be, who’s life has been upended into a complicated mess both in terms of his love life and his relationship with his mom. Penny’s a freshman at college and is learning to be away from home for the first time. She’s looking to discover who she is as a writer and who she’ll be apart from her mother, but her own anxieties and idiosyncrasies may make or break relationship with the woman who raised her. These two form a sort of oddball friendship, one that’s definitely unexpected, and find they have more in common than they thought.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it explores a “friends-first” relationship that blossoms into love in the form of a whisper and then a great explosion. Penny and Sam connect intellectually, learning who the other person is through witty banter that expands into sharing of intimate hopes and fears, all evolving from a single text message. As Penny says of Sam, he “speaks Penny” and gets her so naturally that it’s a breath of fresh air. They develop a camaraderie and a language that is all their own, understanding and getting to know each other in that effortless and exhilarating way, through texting first and then later in person. They are both amazed at how deeply they are able to connect with one another in a virtual space, but it creates a forum of honesty–a place without pretense. They fall in together. Their relationship is easy in the way that real love is. The story’s focus is on the connection these two have as friends and the excitement leading up to the relationship–the butterflies, the anxiety of not knowing how things will work out.
This story is light, but heart-warming and page-turning simultaneously. Choi’s focus seems to be on character building and development, a skill at which she is extremely talented. Choi successfully conveys Penny’s awkwardness and her total obliviousness at traditional friendships. Penny is hilarious and so incredibly relate-able. I felt such a deep connection, my own tendency to overthink things sometimes reflected in her, but in a way that is so positive. It’s Penny’s internal monologue that makes her so real and so loveable. Sam, as well, is endearing and heart-breaking in his struggles and fears. He gains strength as his world expands and really begins to take charge of his own life, even if it hurts him. Their story will make you smile, but it will also make you cry. An excellent book, well worth buying!
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