Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Korean-American author Mary H.K. Choi humbly states that her debut novel Emergency Contact is a book in which “high-key nothing happens,” but if one were being honest, the story deals with nuances that transcend the somewhat pedestrian nature of falling in love.

Here is a novel featuring a protagonist of color who has dealt with sexual assault and her counterpart, someone who suffers from anxiety. Because the new wave of literature in light of recent revolutions is becoming increasingly diverse, Choi falls into line by bringing in seldom-talked-about issues into acknowledgment. The novel itself, though, is relatively mundane: college, falling in love, texting, no buildup nor climax, only a couple hundred pages of fluff – but the underlying ideas make up for it.

The premise of the book, however, is sweet: the idea of having someone as your safeguard and home(hence the title Emergency Contact) is something that reinforces the idea of clear communication and healthy relationships, especially in the digital age. Additionally, Penny and Sam, our two starring characters, will become more relatable the further you read. They’re charming, bittersweet, and show a lot of the author’s heart inside each of their personalities.

Ultimately, the coffee-shop cliche and cutesie scenes make for your average YA novel, spanning across pages of sentiment. You’ll laugh, ache, and feel for the characters you’re reading for and the experiences they go through. There will be a tough time spent trying to detach yourself from Penny and Sam, and the essential message is this: if you’re looking for your next sappy(yet barrier-breaking) YA, here it is.

— Esther H.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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