Coffee, quips & coming of age: ‘Emergency Contact’ by Mary H.K. Choi

Reader: Laura
Rating: 9/10
How much did I love it?: As much as a stack of red velvet pancakes, swimming in dulche de leche ice cream while on a plane to Japan
If you like the following, you should definitely give it a read: Sharp, witty narrators, clever metaphors and fangirling over fictional boys who bake and have cool tattoos (*drool*)

So I finished Emergency Contact last night, and it’s killed me.

Though I can’t entirely blame author Mary H.K. Choi. It’s partly my fault, too – for having no self-control or awareness of my body’s limitations. Because you see, I clambered into bed last night at 11pm to read it for half an hour before lights up… and ended up devouring the whole thing, finally switching off at 2am an emotional, gleeful mess.

So – yeah. My bad. But still. Damn you, Mary.

Damn you, and I love you.

This YA book by first-time novelist Mary (who has also written comics for Marvel and DC and hosts a podcast, to give you a flavour of how frikkin’ cool she is) follows the lives of Penny, a Korean fiction-writing student at the University of Texas and Sam, a hot baker/barista who’s having trouble finding direction in his early twenties. Through a strange twist of events, they meet and become each other’s ‘emergency contacts’ – the person the other calls in a time of crisis – and form a bond, learning about each other’s lives and providing support through various ‘coming of age’ epiphanies and relatable issues.

It is so good, people.

I truly loved it. Probably because I am a massive hipster at heart, so reading a love story which revolves around a coffee shop Speaks To Me. And that’s just the tip of the ‘Speaks To Me’ iceberg (if there’s such a thing). As a young twenty-something also careering through adulthood with their pants perpetually on fire, I felt comforted in relating to their issues with growing up, adapting to adulthood adversities and learning about what it takes to chase your dreams.

Mary’s writing style is second to none.

This is very much a character-centric book, and Penny and Sam’s conversations and subtle observations with/about each other chart the growth of their relationship beautifully. From quips and jokes over text to revealing their most heartbreaking revelations and secrets, you’re privy to both characters letting down their barriers and facing life – and people – more bravely.

You’d have to be a sociopath not to FEEL things strongly throughout. At no point in EC was I not tearing up, laughing out loud or reflecting. There’s no respite from this ferris wheel of thought because each character – not just Sam and Penny – is complex in their own way, something you discover as the book presses on. I love a good character arc – no matter how big or small – and there are those aplenty in EC. Nobody’s a blank slate.

Out of all the characters, however, you’ll – if you’re anything like me – fall in love with Penny the most.

I mean, how could you not? She’s a socially awkward sci-fi nerd who adores writing and always jumps to the worst case scenario. AKA, she’s the textual representation of 50% of all Flawkward readers (existing and future), I’m sure.

Put it on your summer reading list.

To read during the DAY, I cannot stress this enough. Because you cannot open EC and not finish the whole thing promptly after.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Follow Mary on Twitter here or Instagram here. Or Flawkward HERE, if you haven’t already (*wink wink*).

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