Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi | SLJ Review

Gr 9 Up –This debut novel examines modern relationships in the age of smart phones.

redstarCHOI, Mary H.K. Emergency Contact. 400p. S. & S. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534408968. POP

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

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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