cover image Emergency Contact

Emergency Contact

Mary H.K. Choi. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5344-0896-8

Unlike her flirtatious Korean mother, Penny Lee doesn’t have much of a social life, but she hopes that things will change when she goes off to college in Austin, Tex., to pursue becoming a writer. She soon meets Sam, her roommate’s 21-year-old uncle, a college dropout and talented baker who works (and lives) at a local coffee house. They barely know each other, but, after Penny catches Sam in a vulnerable moment (he thinks he’s having a heart attack but is actually suffering from anxiety) they agree to be each other’s emergency contacts. Soon, they are exchanging texts and sharing secrets they’ve never divulged. In her first novel, writer and reporter Choi sensitively shows the evolution of two lonely, complicated people who slowly emerge from their shells to risk an intimate relationship. Her sharp wit and skillful character development (of Penny’s mother: “in jeans and a faded T-shirt that read Slay Hunty, Celeste resembled an incoming freshman as much as Penny did”) ensure that readers will feel that they know Penny and Sam inside and out before the gratifying conclusion. Ages 14–up. Agent: Edward Orloff, McCormick Literary. (Mar.)