What to do when your enjoyment of a book forces you to confront a genre bias:
1. Quietly place the book on a shelf in your classroom library, work on plausible deniability.
“Emergency Contact? Not sure how that got there—maybe the publisher sent it to me?”
2. Declare the book a genre outlier, anomalous, and praise it with “Yes, but . . .”
“Yes, I enjoyed Emergency Contact, but mostly because the author breaks with narrative convention by using lists and replications of text messages, and her usage of pop-cultural references and neologisms like “snack-crastinated” creates a ludic narrative voice . . .”
3. Admit how you tore through the book because you loved the two main characters and dug how the author unironically/ironically embraced many genre conventions—and finally admit to yourself and others that enjoying a good romantic story neither makes you a Disney-fied cultural dupe nor destroys the last vestiges of your illusory masculine street cred.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi will make you put down your phone long enough to see what happens between first-year University of Texas student Penny and slightly older barista/baker/brooding budding filmmaker Sam, the supposedly off limits and unobtainable “uncle” (it’s complicated) of Penny’s UT roommate, Jude.
And then pick your phone up and tell all your friends to read this book. Even if, like Penny, you’ve never had many friends.
Blisteringly funny, alternately snarky and heartfelt, a winning mixture of the engagingly trivial and the disturbingly real, Emergency Contact illuminates as much as it captivates, shining lights of varying intensities on issues such as female friendships, mother-daughter relationships, modern romance, sexual assault, race and class in America, and the ways social media and technology are changing how we construct our identities and connect with each other. Highly recommended.
tl;dr (didn’t read my review; you should absolutely read the book) —crying from laughing emoji/actually crying emoji/heart-eyes emoji.