For aspiring author Penny Lee, beginning her first year of college is a welcome escape from so much that is lacking in her life. Now she has a chance for a new start, but will her shyness prevent her from the better future that she is dreaming of?


Sam Becker, a coffee shop baker with no money, a failing laptop, and a manipulative ex-girlfriend, dreams of being a movie director, but the odds seemed stacked against him. Will he ever gain enough footing to find some joy and purpose in life?


These questions and more set the stage for Mary H. K. Choi's new novel, Emergency Contact. Sam and Penny meet by chance in a minor emergency, swap phone numbers, and become “emergency contacts.” Neither of them expect anything to come of it, but both find that they can text each other with ease. Soon they are texting daily, able to express their thoughts, opinions, darkest secrets, and dreams without any of the social awkwardness of actually having to see each other or meet in person. Sam and Penny “click.” They understand each other so well, and it is wonderful to always have someone there “at the touch of a button.” When their relationship unexpectedly escalates into a second real-life meeting, will it be able to survive and even thrive, or will reality and face-to-face conversation crush the freedom and ease they both felt with only texting?


Sam and Penny’s text message conversations are confusing at times. There are a few sections where it isn’t readily apparent which texts are sent by whom until much later in their conversation. This confusion is amplified by the fact that sometimes Sam’s texts are on the left side of the page and Penny’s on the right, but not always. (As my copy of the book was an uncorrected ARC, hopefully this issue will be corrected in the editing process).


Emergency Contact is a light and fun read, but it does have its dark and serious moments as well. At times it seems too heavy for the young adult audience to whom it is targeted. Both main characters have serious issues with their moms, and there is a heavy amount of cursing and bad language for a young adult book. The story that Penny works on for her writing class is dark and morbid. That aside, Emergency Contact is realistic, yet fun to read, and the ending is satisfying without seeming false. The pros definitely outweigh the cons with this book, leading me to give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.


Emergency Contact had my attention from the start—Choi is able to draw the reader in and keep them there. Her writing style is relaxed, her descriptions clever, and her dialogue realistic yet witty. Choi’s characters are a flawed blend of light and shade, some realistic and likable, other realistic and hateable—a sign of a good writer. Emergency Contact is dialogue-driven and drama-based, with enough subplot to keep you reading until the last page.


A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada through NetGalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

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