Release Day Review | Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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“Not only do I know everything about you, but I remember everything about you. My folder on you is so fat and complete and bursting with nonsensical shit because I couldn’t help myself…I want to be with someone I can talk to. I want to be with someone who automatically has a fat folder on me. Someone who feels lucky when I tell them the most unflattering, scary stuff.”

I feel like I say this all the time, but this book was way more different than I thought it would be. It was pitched to me as a cute contemporary with a love story based on texting/emailing. I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty new,” so I was intrigued and picked it up from work. (Thankfully working at a bookstore comes with a library check out system!) I think it does this book a injustice to compare it to Eleanor and Park because it’s much better in my opinion.

The characters are what drive this story. They’re real, they have real world problems, and they sound authentic. They’re all a bit eccentric, but that’s what makes them relatable. Penny is an anxious, independent aspiring writer with an unhealthy relationship with her mother. Sam is a slightly homeless, slightly hopeless baker with a dream of one day becoming the next Spielberg. He also has a bad relationship with his mother, but for completely different reasons. The side characters (Penny’s mom Celeste, her new college roommate and Sam’s former family member Jude, and Jude’s best friend Mallory) all have their own distinct personalities, and they all grow in some way.

I really appreciated the way darker topics were brought up, and it definitely sets this contemporary apart from others. I expected fluffy and was given deep. There is a trigger warning for rape and sexual assault, so if those topics (even briefly mentioned) are too much for you to read through, either skip that chapter or don’t pick up the book at all. It’s not a massive subplot in any shape or form, but it does help with some character growth. It wasn’t used in a way to push the plot along, so no plot device worry there.

Despite all the positives, I did have a couple problems with the book overall. For starters, I felt like the whole digital relationship concept wasn’t fully executed well. There are some moments of texting and some email exchanges, but I felt like it was lacking. For a book so heavily described as a “digital love story”, I assumed there would be more evidence of the digital part of the story.

Secondly, everything ended pretty abruptly. There were many loose ties, so if you were to tell me there would be a sequel, I wouldn’t be surprised. I kind of wish that there would be because I would like to know the conclusions to certain events.

Spoilers ahead!!

I want to know what happens with Sam’s film and the kid he filmed. Nothing more was discussed as far as his choices when he decided not to turn it in to save Bastian’s family. I would at least have liked to see someone see Sam’s final project. Also, what happened to Penny’s story? I wanted to see how she finished the story and what her professor thought of it. I wanted to see her grow a bit more with her writing and learn to be more confident with it. It made me a little sad to see so little of Penny and Sam’s actual relationship. I wanted to see their first date, and I wanted to see what they would be like as an actual couple and not just a digital one. I would’ve also liked to have seen more of Sam and his mother. I felt like nothing was resolved, and maybe that was intentional because not everything can be fixed, but I feel like there could’ve been just more there. Lastly, I wanted to see what happened with her friends and mother. I wanted to see more of Mallory becoming a real friend. I wanted to see more of Jude announcing what she wanted in life and being more assertive. I wanted to see Penny’s mom take responsibility for her lack of it, and I wanted to see their relationship get better and grow.

End of spoilers!

All in all, it was a great read. I found myself needing to keep going and see what would happen to these characters. It was better than I originally anticipated, and that’s all a reader can really ask for.

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