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.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

In her new novel, American Street, Ibi Zoboi creates a different type of story which is both full of truth and meaning.  The first thing I noticed when I picked up the book, however, was the names.  And how much Zoboi was able to do with them.  Our protagonist, Fabiola Toussaint, shares an inspiring story through narrated as well as journalistic chapters, and I loved all of it.  Though not based on a true story, the author has taken the voice of each character and has written from their own fictitious hearts, almost as if she were interviewing them.  Blending the American lifestyle of today’s Detroit and a coming-of-age teenager’s story from Haiti made for a truly extraordinary read.

Fabiola:

According to my papers, I’m not even supposed to be here.  I’m not a citizen.  I’m a “resident alien.”  The borders don’t care if we’re all human and my heart pumps blood the same as everyone else’s.

Not only does this message strike home for my beliefs, but it is truly and utterly relevant.  Fabiola, conned ‘Fabulous’ by friends at school, was born in Haiti to a life supported by her American aunt. The story starts out as Fabiola leaves the airport without her mother, detained by the immigration officers.  This vulnerability reaches the reader on a deep level.  If this scene was cut from the novel, Fabiola would be treated as any other modern-day damsel in distress finding her way around twenty-first century Detroit.

What makes her story so special was the way it spoke to the reader.  It was unlike many other novels recently released, in that the reader felt something more than joy or sadness.  At some point in one’s life, they will experience being in a new and unfamiliar place.  Nothing seems to stop to allow one to catch up.  It is as if nobody else cares.  Zoboi captured this shared human feeling stunningly.

On a scale of ‘one’ to ‘amazing’, I would definitely rate American Street ‘amazing’.  Readers can also learn something new about cultures and their collision on the corner of American Street and Joy Road.

-Maya S.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: Meg Cabot

On August 7th 2017, Mission Viejo was graced with a visit from world famous author, Meg Cabot. There to promote her latest novel, Royal Crush, Meg Cabot has wrote many books; she has written the Princess Diaries, The Meditator, 1-800-WHERE-R-U, All-American Girl, Avalon High, The Airhead, and The Abandon series. In addition to this, she wrote numerous standalone novels. With such a wide collection of works, there is sure to be something for everyone. Just like the various characters Meg Cabot has wrote about, she has an interesting life story.

Born in Bloomington Indiana, Meg Cabot started to write stories from the age of seven. She was a big fan of Star Wars, and admired Princess Leia so much, that she wrote stories about her. As she grew older, she realized she could not do that, but she still loved Star Wars. In high school, she flunked math because she was too busy drawing all the time because she loved it as much as writing. After high school, Ms. Cabot attended Indiana University. Not sure about her major, she runs into a guy at a party who tells her not to major in creative writing. Taking his advice, she decides to major in art. During her time at college, she did not take a single writing class. At graduation, her diploma tube was empty because of that.

After graduation, Ms. Cabot moved to New York where she worked as an assistant residence hall director at New York University. There, she met the same guy from the party who told her that he was drunk at that time, and did not know what he was saying. They started to date, eventually got married, and have been married for over twenty years. Around the same time, her Father passed away, which really hurt her. She also decided to start publishing her works, but they kept getting rejected. Three years later, Ms. Cabot finally published her first novel, Where Roses Grow Wild, under her pen name of Patricia Cabot at the age of thirty. Her most famous series, Princess Diaries, was originally based on Cabot’s life about a woman her age having her mother starting to date her teacher. After writing about it, her friends feel it’s weird, so Ms. Cabot makes the girl fourteen, but nothing really happens. Ms. Cabot revises the story to make the girl a long-lost princess, and Princess Diaries is born. An interesting fact about the series is that the Father is not in the movie because the producers wanted Julie Andrews, who plays the grandmother, to have a lot of speaking parts.

As a writer, Ms. Cabot gets ideas for her novels from everywhere. Some are based on her own anecdotes, while others are just from her imagination. She advises aspiring writers to never give up their dreams. She lives in Key West, Florida with her husband and her many cats.

-Anmol K.

Royal Crush and the works of Meg Cabot are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.