Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Review: "Emergency Contact" by Mary H.K. Choi

I totally agree, soon-to-be Princess Meghan! (Yes, I know she won't actually be called that, but I don't care.) I loved loved loved this book, and it reminded me of how good an amazing YA book (or any book for that matter) makes me feel.

Penny can't wait to go to college and escape her high-maintenance mother, Celeste. Celeste seems to forget she's the mother and Penny's her daughter, and having to keep avoiding your mother's attempts to be your best friend and dress like you and talk about cute boys is utterly exhausting. All Penny wants to do is become a writer and leave her old life behind, and even if it's just a little more than an hour away from home.

Sam is a mess. His family life is a shambles, he lives in a storage room above the coffeehouse where he works, and he had to drop out of school because he couldn't afford it. He's trying to get over his cheating ex-girlfriend (who can't seem to stay away completely), and he wishes he had more money so he could take a film class and start making documentaries.

Although Penny and Sam meet once when she visits his coffeehouse with her roommate, Jude, who is sort-of Sam's ex-niece, their meet-not-so-cute occurs when she spots Sam having a panic attack on the street and she rescues him. Their shared quirky sense of humor quickly bonds them in friendship, and the two become each other's emergency contact, and a sounding board for the things they're feeling about life around them.

Their relationship is purely textual, but they can't get enough of each other. They can say anything they want to each other, and it's amazing how dependent each becomes on the other. Both feel the desire, the pull to take a further step, but what if the other doesn't reciprocate those feelings? What if they don't work as more than friends? How can they jeopardize this incredible relationship they've built?

"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. With Sam in her pocket, she wasn't ever alone. But sometimes it wasn't enough. Penny knew she should be grateful, yet there was this niggling hope, this aggravating notion running constantly in the background of her operating system, that one day Sam would think about her and decide, 'To hell with all these other chicks I meet every day who are hot, not scared of sex, and are rocket scientists when it comes to flirting, I choose you, Penelope Lee. You have an inventive, not-at-all-gross way with snacks, and your spelling is top-notch.'"

How do you know when to take a leap of faith and risk it all? How can you protect yourself from the possibility everything could go amazingly wrong? And how can you let other people in when you've spent so much of your life insulating yourself from everyone to be sure you don't get hurt? Emergency Contact tries to answer those questions, and does so with such memorable, amazing, quirky, awkward characters I absolutely loved.

This is one of those books where the main characters talk at a sophistication level above where most people their age do, but for Sam and Penny, that absolutely worked. Even though you've probably seen this story before, maybe countless times, in Mary H.K. Choi's hands, it's so fresh and appealing, and I just couldn't get enough.

I never trust when blurbs compare one book to another, yet the comparison to Rainbow Rowell's Franklin & Park (one of my all-time faves) isn't way off the mark. There's a quirkiness to Choi's writing that is utterly endearing, much like Rowell's, and both authors have so much heart.

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

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