Thursday 26 December 2019

#CBR11 Book 91: "Emergency Contact" by Mary H.K. Choi

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Official book description:
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 cafĂ© 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, you know, see each other.

This is recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park and Jenny Han's To All the Boys I Loved Before. I can sort of understand the first comparison, as with Rowell's book, this is told in alternating chapter from Penny and Sam's points of view. The book also has a similar feel to some of Rowell's books, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay an author. I'm guessing the comparison to Jenny Han is because both are written by young women of Asian descent and there are young women of Asian descent in the books? As I wasn't exactly a massive fan of Han's admittedly very popular YA novel (I much prefer the film adaptation), I think it's nice if anyone who liked it picks up this book based on the comparison, because they'll get to read what I consider a much more entertaining book.

While both Sam and Penny are fun characters to figuratively hang out with, I must admit that both of them also annoyed me quite a lot at times, and I do not agree with the way they treated certain members of their families (close or extended - I don't want to go into detail because that would spoil the story). Penny really is far too quick to judge and pigeon hole those around her, and probably gets on so well with Sam via text message precisely because they get to know one another without spending actual time together. If they did, it seems as if Penny would have harshly judged him too quickly as well, and there would never have been any friendship, then romance, to get excited about.

Did the fact that Penny and Sam annoyed me in any way ruin or cause problems for my reading experience? No. In fact, because they felt complicated and multi-faceted and flawed, with the potential and need to develop and grow, just like actual young college age people do, I think I enjoyed the book more. This was apparently Choi's debut novel, and I will be excited to see what she writes next.

Judging a book by its cover: I think this cover is absolutely lovely and the characters are so well represented. The rose background and the gold font also fit, considering Penny uses a rose gold phone to communicate with Sam.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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