A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mary H.K. Choi's Emergency Contact is a romance between college freshman Penny and 21-year-old Sam. The older teens and young adults make a lot of sexual references and talk about birth control, UTIs, periods, condoms, and more. There's a pregnancy scare, and abortion is briefly discussed. There are a few kisses and making out, and Penny and Sam sleep in the same bed with clothes on. Strong language includes "d--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," and references to the "F" word in abbreviations such as "GTFO" and "MILF." Sam is in recovery from alcohol abuse, although he doesn't participate in any structured sobriety method. Past excessive drinking is mentioned. Underage Penny drinks a few times, but not to excess. Very little violence except telling about someone who kept going after Penny had said no to sex; other than the nonconsensual act itself, there was no other violence like beating or struggling. Penny's buried feelings about it and her inability to take action at the time could lead to a discussion about the importance of consent. The romance blossoms almost exclusively by text messaging, which could spark another good conversation with teens about why the characters feel freer communicating that way, and what your family's values and guidelines are for interacting via text message.
What's the story?
College freshman Penny and 21-year-old barista/filmmaker Sam become each others' EMERGENCY CONTACT after Penny helps Sam while he's having a genuine panic attack on the hot streets of Austin, Texas. As they start communicating by text, they each immediately realize that they "get" each other in ways no one else does, or could. The only problem is that Sam happens to be vaguely related to Penny's roommate Jude, and Jude has asked Penny not to get involved with Sam. But if they're just texting and not getting together in real life ... that doesn't count, does it? Penny and Sam's feelings for each other keep growing, and things get trickier and trickier as they try to keep their secret. Until, of course, the beans get spilled.
Is it any good?
This quirky, sweet romance between a college freshman and a struggling 21-year-old scores best with its engaging, believable characters. Penny and Sam take turns narrating Emergency Contact, so readers not only go inside each character's mind but also get a more rounded view of each one through the other's eyes. The plot's pretty predictable: The thing you know is going to happen sure enough happens. But author Mary H.K. Choi's vividly realized characters make it a journey romance fans will enjoy taking.
Penny and Sam aren't always likable, especially until we get to know them better, but teens will easily relate to them even as they make mistakes along the way. Issues like consent, keeping secrets, long-distance relationships, and falling for someone via text messaging add relevance and food for thought for teens, packaged in an engaging romance that feels real and ends on a satisfying note.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sexy stuff, especially all the talking about it, in Emergency Contact. Is it realistic? How much is too much in books, movies, video games, and TV?
Lots of media for teens mention consumer products by name. In this case, does it help you understand the characters, the time, or the setting? Or does it seem gratuitous? Why?
How do you like the structure of alternating chapters from Sam and Penny's points of view? Does it help you understand the characters by getting inside each one's head?
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