Swoon. Emergency Contact was just what I needed this week. Smart, compassionate, and messy–everything a college romance should be.

Book Cover: Emergency Contact

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads 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 café 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 see each other.

Goodreads | Amazon

This bestseller doesn’t need my help or explanation, so instead of a regular review, I’m just going to list things I love about it.

  • This is the best depiction of a mostly-text relationship I’ve ever read. I’ve had friendships and relationships that, at least for long periods of time, happened mostly by text, and Emergency Contact absolutely captured what if feels like for your phone to transform into this magical presence of a person.
  • Penny’s story. I want to read the whole thing!
  • This book made tattoos attractive to me for the first time.
  • The unbridled geeky nerdiness
  • The portrayal of Penny’s anxiety–the ways it made her sympathetic and the ways that made her obnoxious
  • The heart-fluttering kiss
  • The beyond-perfect cover
  • The playful, subtly sharp prose
  • Parent-child relationships that are complicated and sometimes terrible but always respected as important in a teenager’s life
  • A college story that’s mostly about how crappy college can be
  • Strong, fleshed-out supporting characters that don’t let the highly flawed protagonists off the hook. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that call out this book for being ~problematic~ mostly because of the judgemental, prejudiced protagonists. I absolutely agree with that assessment of the early chapters. The point, to me, is the way they grow beyond that. It isn’t a coincidence that the misogyny and bitterness fade away halfway through the book as Penny and Sam start to think outside themselves and inch towards a more compassionate outlook. The supporting cast is a huge part of this; they might not have experienced this growth if it weren’t for the secondary relationships.
  • Did I mention that kiss?

That said, I do have some reservations… the biggest being that this really should have been New Adult. Trying to shoehorn this book into YA filed down some of the rough edges and led to a questionable age gap in the romance. One reason we need NA is for stories like this to get room to breathe.

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