When I read Marie’s review about Emergency Contact, I knew that this was the book for me and that I had to read it right away. I am so glad that I did, because I ended up marathoning the audiobook over a course of 2 days, and LOVED it.
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.
I love the characters who are flawed but relatable. Penny is an aspiring author who starts her freshman year in university. She lost touch with her best friend when she moved, so the only person she kind of maybe has a connection with is her boyfriend (who she is not too fond of). Sam works at a coffee shop and hopes to go back to university to study film. He dreams about filming and directing his own documentaries.
When Penny and Sam meet, they exchange numbers and agree to be each other’s emergency contact. For a long time, Penny and Sam communicate by text and become each other’s best friends without meeting again in real life. I loved this slow-burning romance between Penny and Sam, who slowly learn to trust and depend on each other. I loved the conversations between them, which is at times friendly banter and at times vulnerable and affectionate. The chemistry between Penny and Sam, though subtle, is undeniable.
In addition to the relationship between Penny and Sam, the non-romantic relationships also take center stage in this novel. Penny never quite understands her mom Celeste, who is outgoing and flirtatious but seems to be from a different planet as Penny. Sam is estranged from his family and would rather have nothing to do with his mom or dad. Then there is also the relationship between Penny and her new friends, Jude and Mallory. As much as this is a novel about Penny and Sam’s relationship with each other, it is also about their relationships with their families and friends.
The writing is humorous and hopelessly addictive to read. The dialogues flow well, and the chemistry between each of the characters are palpable. Though this is not a fast-paced novel, I couldn’t help but turn the pages.
I love that the novel is subtle and realistic. It is easy to imagine that Penny and Sam could exist in our world as well. The characters are not geniuses, nor are they drop-dead gorgeous. Despite (and maybe because of) this, Penny and Sam stay in my head long after the last chapter of the book.
Spoiler: (Highlight to reveal)
Though the novel ends on a hopeful note, many things are left up to interpretation, such as Penny and Sam’s careers. We don’t know if Penny will succeed as a writer, we don’t know if Sam will move out of his dingy room on top of the coffee shop, but this is true to life, isn’t it? There really is no ending because Penny and Sams life continues.
The audiobook? Fantastic!
The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars
Emergency Contact is a subtle and poignant novel about friends, family, and finding that special someone who understands you just the way you are.
What is the last book that you read in one or two sittings? What do you think are the ingredients of a good romance? Are there characters who stay in your mind even after you finish a book, and what makes them so memorable?