Final February Love Story Spotlight: A review of “Emergency Contact”

February 26, 2018

(Originally posted on my old book review blog, HilliterateBlog!)

Hi there! It looks like this will be my last love story spotlight of the month, as I don't think I'll get another review out before Thursday, but don't despair — I read and talk about love stories just as much every other month of the year. What was the point of the spotlight then, you ask? Ummm because this is my book blog and I do what I WANT and a month-long theme sounded cool. Let me live!

I've had a lot of caffeine today. Anywho, this review is special to me because it's going to cover my very first ARC, which means "advanced reader copy" for anyone like KHill-of-6-months-ago who has never heard of such a thing. ARCs are sent out by the publishers to bookstores, bloggers, other authors, and anyone else they want to read (and hopefully review) the book before its release date. They are "uncorrected proofs" rather than the polished final copies that will be sold in stores, but the main content of the books are basically the same. My access to ARCs is through my new job at my local independent bookstore (yay!) where there are shelves upon shelves of lovely not-yet-released books for employees to take home, read, and recommend to our customers when they eventually come out. It's maybe the coolest part of the job to me and I might have almost teared up when I learned about it.

Without further ado, the first ARC I've read and am now reviewing is Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. I have to admit that I was first drawn to this one purely based on its GORGEOUS cover. I mean, look at this:

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And fortunately, the stuff behind the cover did not disappoint one bit. I was shocked to learn that this was Choi's very first novel because she writes like she has been in the YA romance game for years and I already want more of her work! Emergency Contact is a sweet and subtle love story following two newly minted adults, Penny and Sam. Penny is starting her freshman year of college and meets Sam, a local coffee shop employee, through her alarmingly outgoing roommate. Their second meeting, however, is under much stranger circumstances through which they exchange numbers and begin to text, joking that they are each other's "emergency contact" and making sure the other is okay.

The texting becomes more frequent, which works well for socially awkward, highly anxious Penny and slightly lovesick and very down on his luck Sam. Slowly, they each come to depend more on the texting relationship than on any of their "IRL" friends and family, and readers get to watch the realization of this unfold in a fashion that is equal parts awkward and adorable.

In chapters alternating between their two perspectives, readers see a couple of main characters that are far from any Prince-and-Princess-Charming ideal. Penny and Sam each have so many flaws and issues they're dealing with. Their story is not just a simple romance, but also touches on cultivating familial love in spite of a far-from-perfect upbringing, learning to exist in an unfamiliar social environment — and in the world itself — when you're used to letting anxiety hold you back, and finally, allowing your true self to show in spite of your fear that no one will like what they see.

It may sound like a lot to compress into one book, but Emergency Contact doesn't feel like it's trying to do too much; rather, it feels like an authentic display of the complex, multifaceted feelings and experiences that the average 18-to-22 year old confronts in everyday life. It's one of the more relatable and honest modern love stories I've read and I highly recommend it!

Emergency Contact will be in stores on March 27th, so be sure to pick up your copy then (or even better for the author, pre-order from anywhere books are sold today)!

As always, I'd love to hear in the comments about your favorite love stories, or any other book recommendations you have for me. Thanks for reading :)

Until next time,

K. Hill