Book review banner: Emergency Contact
Book reviews

Emergency Contact – Mary H. K. Choi

Release date: 8 January 2019
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5 stars

Emergency Contact blurb:

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she’d somehow landed a boyfriend, they never managed to know much about each other. Now Penny is heading to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer. It’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light-years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is a chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration when he’s a famous movie director, but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths, it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch – via text – and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to, you know, see each other.

This book was so unbelievably perfect. I definitely loved it all of the love. Like, ALL OF THE LOVE. FOREVER. I think Penny is secretly my spirit animal. Or just me. In fictional form. I understand how her brain works, and also her clothing choices. And what it’s like to feel that broken that you can’t tell anyone for fear that they will reject you on sight.
So, Emergency Contact is a soul-crushing contemporary story about two college kids who randomly meet for five seconds, but then soon afterwards save each other, physically and mentally. So they decide to become each other’s emergency contact. Being an ’emergency contact’ seems to have a range of responsibilities, including answering random questions about clothing, asking for advice, telling the other person random facts about yourself, and disclosing every secret you’ve ever bottled up. However, for all those introverts out there (myself included), this is perfect, because it’s a largely text based relationship. In fact, it’s basically the perfect way to start a relationship. Meet person, see them at their worst, build relationship without having to physically see person again for period of time.
However, the story is slightly more complex than that. Both Sam and Penny are going through some stuff. Sam’s got this thing with his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Penny has this awkward social thing as she’s new at university, and they’ve both got similar mum-issues and dad-issues.
This is largely entirely a relationship/character driven novel. That introverts will love. It’s also a little bit of a ‘coming of age’ book. It’s about redefining the things in your life so they stress you less and dealing with change.

Penny knew emoji hearts were flying out of her eyes. She was smitten mitten kittens.

It’s also a slow-burn romance (but I LOVE those, so WINNING!!) and very quotable (I know this because I actually tabbed pages in it). AND, it’s got amazing references in it that had nerd-Meeghan (or real Meeghan) sending heart-eye-emojis to the author (but only figuratively because I’m way too chicken to do that in real life). Let me provide examples (I’m so organised):

She knew, though, that Overwatch and World of Warcraft were huge in Korea – PC games that were played so competitively and obsessively that tournaments filled arenas and people went into rehab for addiction.

I do feel like I need to split that one though. I love Overwatch, and if the Overwatch League teams (not Contenders, I mean like NYXL) came to Aus to play then I would absolutely go watch them play. (Except not the current meta, I don’t really enjoy watching goats. I’d rather see Pine and Saebyeolbe on Widow and Tracer respectively, because DPS for the win!) And I also watched bits and pieces of the World Cup and was pretty happy with how far Aus got (we were totally carried by Custa). I’m not great at playing, but I can enjoy watching it as a team-based esport. But the thing I love most about Overwatch are the shorts about the characters you can play as (list below with links – they’re amazing and I cried in some of them). That’s what brings it home for me, so seeing it mentioned in a book made me love it!! However, I don’t really get WoW, although I guess it’s just like a quest/fantasy based version of The Sims (which I do play), but online. I have heard of people going to rehab for WoW, but not for Overwatch…
There were also references to The Sims, The Hunger Games, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (specifically Captain America: Civil War and the Superhuman Registration Act, aka the Sokovian Accords).
Then there was the bit where Sam merged two words together. (FYI I do this ALL. OF. THE. TIME.)

Horror and terror. Torror.

All that aside, my absolute favourite part of this book was this one quote:

“Do you think I’m broken?”

I 100% empathise with Penny in that moment. It’s a thought that I have had many times before, and even if this book had been doing nothing for me until this point, I would have scored it very highly. However, this book was doing everything for me up to this point, and then made me cry about 16 times.
The characters and the depths of emotion they show (be it in an introverted way) during this book felt uncannily real to me. They felt real. I can’t really describe it any better than that because I’m still so emotional about it all. Reading this book made me feel raw, like all my past and secrets and hidden truths were on display – and that was really confronting, but it also made me feel like I was understood. Like, if this book were a person, it would be my person. Penny would be my person. I understood her character.
I’ve loved characters before. And I’ve seen myself in little traits that they have. Maybe thoughts or mannerisms. But I’ve never identified so wholly with one before. It was a really interesting experience, and I loved the book even more for it.
Until next time, happy reading ??

These are the Overwatch shorts about the characters – if these don’t sell you on the game as a whole, then nothing will. But, the shorts are amazing, even if you never play the game I would recommend watching them. They each go for about 8 mins and the animation is so well done that they remind me of the Pixar shorts! Just with more guns…

There are also so many characters that are yet to be in shorts (Torbjorn, Zenyatta, Mercy, Ana, Pharah, Junkrat, Roadhog, Symmetra, Orisa, Moira, Lucio, Doomfist, Hammond*, and Baptiste) that I really just want them to make a TV series or movie with them all. It’d basically be the Avengers vs. Thanos and crew. Or the Autobots vs. the Decepticons. (Overwatch vs. Blackwatch)

* I refuse to call Hammond “Wrecking Ball”. It’s the dumbest name ever. I also think Doomfist has a dumb name but I don’t have anything else to call him.


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