Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi // Book Review



I have to admit that I didn’t think I would love this book so much. Granted, not for its romance but generally for Penny. There’s something about a non-white protag to scream “Look, it can be done! And it there’s a demographic for it because white should not be synonymous for universal experience!”

Penny is finally leaving high school behind to be more of herself in college. There’s so much going on that there isn’t a dull moment and the book quickly wraps you up in Penny’s pace. It doesn’t feel convoluted but true to real life as we balance between friends, family, love, and work. She forms a friendship with an older guy who happens to be her roommate’s uncle (don’t worry, it’s a 3 year age gap). Of course, their friendship changes and they struggle to make sense of it. Listen, I’m just not into the downtrodden underdog hero and although Sam is good, he’s not great. I found him to be meh compared to Penny. She’s just a supernova balling with genuine funny banter and anxiety. Sam on the other hand whined…a lot. It’s not fair considering that Sam is also under duress but he’s supposed to be hot which unfortunately makes me less concern for some petty reason. #prettypeoplehaveproblemstoo

This is a nitpick that doesn’t count against anything. I thought Penny’s evolving relationship with her mom as she attempts to communicate was the centerpiece of the story. The circular narrative certainly sheds light on the two. An also important message is about communication and how Penny and Sam constantly push the people closest away in fear that their vulnerability might tarnish accessibility. They don’t see how its the people closest to us who are able to help us the most. Hence, our emergency contact in times of need.

I would recommend this for those who loved Fangirl as there is a similar parallel: freshmen in college, writing majors, misunderstanding parents, and finding new friends.

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Wish the background color offered more contrast being that the fleshy undertone isn’t dynamic. It doesn’t compliment the gold font and that’s a shame because the lovely illustration is forced to be muted as well. I had little interest for this book until I hear other speak highly of it simply because the cover gave the impression that this was another generic romance. I don’t think that the white boarder is necessary and instead confines the illustration. I’m trying to rack my brain to see if this is a metaphor but then why are the two figures facing away from each other. Should there be a design element to connect them? Perhaps highlight emitting from the phones onto their face in a way that suggests a deeper story like they’re texting late into the night? It needs something to push the design.

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