review · two stars

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Rating: ★★
Summary: Penny’s heading to college to learn how to become a writer, seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind. Sam’s stuck – working at a café and sleeping on a mattress on the floor upstairs – but knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director. When Sam and Penny cross paths, it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


Emergency Contact is a mess of a meet-cute: there are eye-rolling tropes atop eye-rolling tropes, everyone gets their own version of a tragic backstory, and the phrase “sci-fi classic” describes Ready Player One. I gave Emergency Contact much more time than I normally would something so cringe-worthy – mostly because of that gorgeous cover – and it did get slightly better as time wore on… but still, it was only just okay. Choi’s protagonists, Penny and Sam, trade off narrating the story, but the voice sounds too familiar to be anything other than a nuisance. (Can we all just agree that third-person omniscient is a perfectly acceptable choice for dual narration??) Penny is self-absorbed and unnecessarily cruel to everyone except Sam because ::hearteyes::. (I guess??) I’m sure that Choi wanted us to understand deep in our bones how awkward and out-of-place Penny feels in her small Texas hometown, but Penny instead comes off as grating and inconsiderate – a Cool Girl™ rather than a misplaced outsider. Nobody really seems to care that Sam is homeless and either needs to be medicated or in therapy or both. Penny belatedly realizes that her mother is a human being with faults and feelings and that maybe it’s not cool to slut shame people who don’t dress the same way as her. Perhaps I’m just too old to “get” eighteen-year-olds, but there were too many scoffs and eye rolls while I was reading this that I just get annoyed when I think too hard about it.

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