Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Genre: Young-Adult contemporary
Published on: March 27th, 2018
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
My rating: 2 stars
Emergency Contact is making both the book-blogging community and Booktube go crazy. Everyone is raving about how fantastic and heartwarming this novel is. In fact, someone I follow even refered to it as “the best contemp of 2018.” With so much hype and praise going around, I decided to make this my first #AsianLitBingo read. Unfortunately, I was highly disappointed.
Since I haven’t written a proper review in a long time, I wanted to share with you all what I liked about this book, what I didn’t like, and what I thought was “meh.”
“For Penny Lee, high school was a total non-event. 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.”
To read my review, click to continue to the full blog post.
I was massively let down by this book. I went into it with so many expectations. Sadly, they weren’t met. Let’s go over the things I liked and didn’t like about this novel.
The element of writing…
Just like Fangirl (my favorite book), this book includes some snippets of Penny’s writing she does during her first year of university. Since Penny is studying English at university, we get to hear about some of her classes. Her creative writing class is the one she talks about the most, and I loved hearing her enthusiasm for the teacher and the curriculum. I love how we could see Penny’s writing evolve as she gets more in touch with her feelings and writing style. Being a little book and writing nerd, of course I would love this theme.
The presence of technology…
It’s so rare to find a book that has this many references to technology and to texting. Many bloggers have written about how it’s a technique writers employ to not make their books outdated quickly. However, since this deals with how teenagers interact and texting is a big part of it, I’m glad Mary Choi included it.
Texting is a big part of our culture, and I loved seeing how Sam and Penny interacted. Another thing I appreciated was the way Mary Choi made it pretty clear that offline communication is very different from in-person communication. We get to see this when Sam and Penny avoid meeting in real life.
Penny’s relationship with her roommate
While they start out on a relatively sour note, they grow to have a very cute relationship. Their first interactions made me cringe at how awkward (and somewhat mean) both characters were. But the good thing is that they grow together and end up forming this amazing bond. Both girls look out for each other and make university life more bearable.
Penny & Sam’s relationship
No matter how many bad things I think about this book, I can’t say that Penny and Sam’s relationship was bad. I think it was actually pretty healthy — which lacks, in my opinion, in other YA books. They were each other’s emergency contact (*roll the credits*) and were pretty supportive of each other’s problems and passions. I liked seeing that. They also didn’t seem to be co-dependent at all. I liked seeing this distance that was there, but at the same time wasn’t, in their texts. They could go a few days without speaking, but they’d sort it all out in the end. BUT! I wish the writer had done them a little more justice, which leads me to…
Penny & Sam’s relationship (or more specifically, how it was developed)
Do you know those times when you just want to shake a writer so they listen to you? Yup, I want to do this to Mary H.K. Choi right now. There was so much potential in this relationship, and she didn’t explore it as much as she could have! What I look for in contemporaries is a cute and cheesy romance — there’s none of that here. I couldn’t feel anything besides friendship (or maybe lust, coming from Penny), and certainly not love.
It’s not like I think they can’t be good romantic partners — exactly the opposite! They have so many things in common and seem to be there for each other all the time, which makes them a great couple. But I would have liked to have seen some cuter moments between these two. I never had the “fuzzy” feeling I get in my tummy when I read contemporaries.
This was a character I passionately disliked. She came across as very rude, ungrateful for all her mother has done for her, holier-than-thou, and overall too bitchy. I understand that what happened to her when she was little shaped her, but I don’t think it’s enough reason to justify all her nasty behavior.
I hated the way she treated her mom. She was very condescending from the first page. Even though I see where she’s coming from, her bitchiness was too much for me to empathize with her. She treats Celeste like crap, even though she does everything she can think of to make her daughter happy. Penny was too mean and disrespectful to her family, beyond any reasonable explanation or excuse.
It’s not like I didn’t like Sam, I just didn’t care for him at all. He was much better than Penny, but that’s not really saying much, is it? He was just too boring and meh. Of course he had his passion to become a film director, and he does go forward with this project, but other than that, he had nothing going for him. I feel like this is all I know about him:
- sick tattoos
- godly body
- likes to text
- likes Penny
- has a deranged girlfriend
- likes baking
- wants to be a film director
- has mommy and daddy issues
I mean, yeah it’s quite a lot. But they just felt so superficial that there might as well only be three bullet points. I expect the male lead in a contemporary to be interesting and hard to forget, and I got nothing of that with Sam.
The writing style
There was something about the writing style that completely put me off. Emergency Contact didn’t read like a Young-Adult novel, but like a New-Adult one (a genre I passionately h a t e). The writing style made me zone out at times and not be able to connect with any of the characters or things going on. It was so distracting and over-the-top. It sounded like an adult trying very hard to pass as a teenager.
This book was not for me. As a lover (and self-proclaimed connoisseur) of Young-Adult contemporaries, this is definitely not that. Yeah, it may have the typical themes — girl goes to college, girl meets boy, girl grows as a person, girl gets the boy — but none of it felt authentic. It was like reading a computer writing YA contemps. Sure, they get the themes right, but the atmosphere is all over the place and not right at all!
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I want to hear all your opinions! I know this is sort of a polarizing book, so I’d love to read your review, regardless of whether or not you liked it.