Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Length: 9 hours
Narrator: Joy Osmanski, Jacques Roy
Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio
Original Publication Date: 2018
Genre(s): New adult, Contemporary, Romance
Penny is ready with a capital R to go to college. She’s never been very good at making friends, so the only two people she’s leaving behind are her mom (who is more like the irresponsible child than Penny) and her boyfriend (who she’s not really that into). She can’t wait to escape to Austin, Texas and start living her actual life.
Sam is stuck. He works at a café near campus and, coincidentally, he lives there, too. He has no money, no true friends to speak of, and no real way to get out of Austin and become a famous movie director like he so aspires.
When Sam and Penny enter each other’s lives, it’s pretty awkward. But they end up swapping numbers and become each other’s emergency contact. They begin to bond over text, where forming friendships is much easier than in person. But in the real world, Sam and Penny can’t keep each other virtual forever. And that…complicates things.
I started reading Emergency Contact because Valentine’s Day was approaching and I needed a romance I could quickly get my hands on. I like to attempt to read with the season, I really do try. I was hoping to finish it last week – AKA the week of V-Day – but to no avail. Pro tip: if you’re looking for a swoony romantic whirlwind, this isn’t it, girl. It’s more of a will-they-won’t-they story. Not that that’s bad or anything – I love those kinds of stories. I just thought it was more of a romance than it is, so I want to spare you in case you’re thinking the same.
Emergency Contact is told in third-person POV from both Penny and Sam’s alternating perspectives. The two main characters meet via Penny’s new college roommate, who also happens to be acquainted with Sam, who works at the café. Their initial meet-cute doesn’t kick off their friendship – that happens a little later and in a much more awkward situation. But once they do start texting, they realize they have a lot in common. And telling someone your innermost thoughts and feelings is a lot easier via text than it is IRL. (Every introvert knows that.)
Like I said, this novel is more a will-they-won’t-they romance, so there’s not a lot of romance in it at all. In fact, the story focuses more on the characters separately and their separate lives. Though the two text and talk on the phone about the goings on in their lives, everything is pretty much happening separately. Though I was expecting a more involved romance, I really enjoyed how this novel was set up. It was interesting to get to know the characters apart before growing closer towards the end. I adored Sam and even liked Penny a lot. In fact, I related a lot to Penny. More like college-Alyssa related to Penny, but still. I can see how people would think she was annoying or rude, but I just think that’s how her anxiety manifests. I really related to her anxiety. And introversion. And dislike of the human population in general. I myself have grown to be a little less like that since college, but Penny is just getting into college, so I don’t blame her. Penny is pretty immature and judgmental, but it’s a product of her childhood and anxiety, and I could see her growing out of it. It takes a lot to change your mindset like that, especially after trauma. So I get it. Be patient with Penny, please.
My only criticism of the novel would be the bits from Penny’s story. She has to write a story as her final for her writing class, so sometimes we jump into her story’s narrative. A story within a story – which is very meta considering Penny’s story also contains a story within a story. Which is a cool concept, but to me it fell flat. I felt it slowed down the novel considerably, and it’s already a slow-moving story to begin with so yikes. Her story is also really weird and uninteresting, and I’m even a sci-fi fan, so…
Other than that, I quite liked Emergency Contact. This is my first Mary H.K. Choi novel and am excited to read more from her. Though I was expecting a more romance-y romance, I wasn’t disappointed with what I received from this novel. Even finishing it after V-Day, I can say it certainly filled my romance book void for the month. If you love alternating perspectives, text-based communication, and will-they-won’t-they romances, you definitely need to check out this novel. Also, that cover? Stunning.