Summary: Penny Lee is more than ready to leave for college in Austin, Texas. She’s ready to leave her mom, her boyfriend, and her non-eventful high school experience. She’s set to go to college to learn how to become a writer and escape to her fictional worlds.
Sam is more than ready for a change. He’s stuck working at a local café and lives there too, sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an empty storage room. Sam dreams of becoming a famous documentary director, but right now the seventeen bucks in his bank account and an ex prevent him from doing so.
When Penny and Sam cross paths, it’s all sorts of awkward, but that doesn’t prevent the two from exchanging phone numbers. As Sam and Penny deal with their own mini crises and anxiety, the two become inseparable… well, at least over their text bubbles.
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
I’ve been bit on an epic quest to read more college YA in 2018 and up next on this TBR was Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. The book had been on my radar for a while, but when I found out about Rainbow Rowell’s blurb, it quickly became a must-read.
Emergency Contact is told through the alternating perspectives of Penny and Sam. I actually enjoyed both perspectives. I liked Penny’s humor for the most part (I think some of it went over my head at times), and I would loveee to try one of Sam’s treats and iced coffees. How do you not love a guy who bakes pies and creates documentaries?? Like MIT’s relationship with Gloria’s Chao’s American Panda, those familiar with the University of Texas and its surroundings in Austin will have fun seeing the setting within Emergency Contact. Penny often describes classrooms and dorm halls at UT Austin, and I’m sure the various places Penny and Sam visit are reminiscent of the area.
However, neither Sam and Penny were perfect.
I really didn’t understand why Penny held so much animosity for her mom. I understand that Penny and her mom, Celeste, didn’t have the best relationship and Penny does experience trauma that she does not discuss with her mom. I guess teenage rebellion is still a thing, but in my opinion, Celeste really wasn’t that bad??
On Sam’s side of things, while this isn’t necessarily connected to his character, I feel like we missed out on a few of his experiences. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t specifically name them, but there is one scene that isn’t told through Sam’s perspective but the results are written in a message to Penny. While we do get tot his conclusion, I feel like it was important enough for us to experience it with Sam.
I did not expect some of Emergency Contact’s heaviness, as the novel deals with racism, pregnancy, drug use, and sexual assault (warning that there is a rape scene). I think Mary H.K. Choi did a nice job of delving into these topics while building Sam and Penny’s storylines.
Overall, Emergency Contact is a mature college YA novel that is perfect for quick reading and for those looking for not-so perfect protagonists.
Have you read Emergency Contact? Share in the comments!