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Emergency Contact
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"Smart and funny, with characters so real and vulnerable, you want to send them care packages. I loved this book." —Rainbow Rowell From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable...
"Smart and funny, with characters so real and vulnerable, you want to send them care packages. I loved this book." —Rainbow Rowell From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable...
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  • "Smart and funny, with characters so real and vulnerable, you want to send them care packages. I loved this book." —Rainbow Rowell

    From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory—perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
    For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn't actually know anything about her. When Penny heads 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 the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for 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 see each other.

About the Author-

  • Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York Times, GQ, Wired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs, and is a culture correspondent for VICE News Tonight on HBO. She is the author of the YA novels Emergency Contact and Permanent Record. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @ChoitotheWorld.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 1, 2018
    Unlike her flirtatious Korean mother, Penny Lee doesn’t have much of a social life, but she hopes that things will change when she goes off to college in Austin, Tex., to pursue becoming a writer. She soon meets Sam, her roommate’s 21-year-old uncle, a college dropout and talented baker who works (and lives) at a local coffee house. They barely know each other, but, after Penny catches Sam in a vulnerable moment (he thinks he’s having a heart attack but is actually suffering from anxiety) they agree to be each other’s emergency contacts. Soon, they are exchanging texts and sharing secrets they’ve never divulged. In her first novel, writer and reporter Choi sensitively shows the evolution of two lonely, complicated people who slowly emerge from their shells to risk an intimate relationship. Her sharp wit and skillful character development (of Penny’s mother: “in jeans and a faded T-shirt that read Slay Hunty, Celeste resembled an incoming freshman as much as Penny did”) ensure that readers will feel that they know Penny and Sam inside and out before the gratifying conclusion. Ages 14–up. Agent: Edward Orloff, McCormick Literary.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    A secret relationship conducted almost exclusively via text buoys a college freshman slouching awkwardly toward adulthood and a 21-year-old cafe manager who is trying to clean up the mess his life has become.When Korean-American Penny Lee, petite, unruly of hair, and socially inept, leaves home to attend the University of Texas, she's eager to launch her writing career and gain some breathing space from her inappropriately flirtatious, overwhelmingly extroverted mother. Sam, a lean, tattooed, and coolly coiffed young white man, grew up with his wildly dysfunctional mother in a trailer park, dropped out of college, got entangled in a manipulative relationship with an Instagram-obsessed beauty, and is now struggling to stay sober and fulfill his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. After their paths cross in real life on the streets of Austin, the two forge an unlikely friendship--or is it more?--via marathon texting sessions, the physical distance allowing them to be vulnerable in a way that would crumble under the pressure of face-to-face contact. However, crises in both Penny's and Sam's lives as well as the tension resulting from their increasing intimacy force them to move beyond the comfort of their glowing screens. While the premise is appealing, character development is weak, making it difficult to care what happens to any of them. It is sadly ironic that the feedback from Penny's creative writing professor (a noted African-American writer of science fiction) that her story is "rhythmically one-note" and that "excellent dialogue and glitter-bomb observations won't save you" applies equally to this novel.Witty asides and up-to-the-minute slang cannot compensate for an absence of emotional depth or well-crafted prose. (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    February 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-This debut novel examines modern relationships in the age of smart phones. Penny Lee leaves behind her humdrum high school years and meets her new college roommate Jude, who introduces Penny to her tattooed, mysterious, and sexy young uncle, Sam. After a strange chance encounter, Sam and Penny become each other's emergency contact. Choi creates an up-to-date and realistic contemporary romance by upending the love story trope. Miscues and miscommunications, which often propel romantic plots forward, are replaced by open and constant screen-to-screen communication. The tension exists in the development of the relationship, starting with just texts, and evolving to a multi-platform, "in real life" friendship. In alternating chapters, Penny and Sam reveal their innermost thoughts. Choi explores love, family issues, identity, loneliness, and acceptance in the context of 24/7 social media. Despite the ever-present contact, deeply connecting with another human being remains remarkably difficult. Choi creates another layer of meaning by addressing the microaggressions that Penny, who is Korean American, faces. The protagonist's response is handled deftly. An internal monologue includes a multiple-choice list of potential reactions to external situations that will ring true with readers and make them appreciate Penny's wry sense of humor and direct approach. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for the teens who enjoy realistic relationship fiction. Recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything and Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park.-Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Needham Free Public Library, MA

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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