The Austin Chronicle

Books to Read and Wrap for the Holidays

It’s wry and vulnerable love via text message in this YA novel set in Austin

Reviewed by Rosalind Faires, December 7, 2018, Arts

When we talk about technology and phones and the state of social interaction In This Day And Age, there tends to be a lot of hand-wringing and not a lot of discussion about how it affects the experience of having a crush. But with Mary H.K. Choi's debut novel, the joy and humor of what it is to be digitally tied to people is warmly illuminated.

Penny comes to Austin to attend the University of Texas and thanks to her roommate, she meets Sam, an aspiring filmmaker currently working and living at a cafe near campus. In person, their interactions are hampered by anxiety and second-guessing, but when becoming each other's – you guessed it – emergency contacts leads them to exchange phone numbers, they're suddenly presented with a means of communication less daunting. With the ability to delay a response and carefully craft a reply, texting frees Penny and Sam to be vulnerable with each other, even as the ease of messaging makes the prospect of interacting in person more nerve-wracking than ever. It's delicate work, making other people's texts funny and intimate, making the little drama of two ordinary people engrossing, but Emergency Contact manages to do both, with an incisive voice and a generous heart.

And for all the teens who can't stop rewatching To All the Boys ...:

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 368 pp., $17.99) This heartfelt follow-up to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – adapted to screen as Love, Simon – puts the focus on the titular Leah as she wrestles with the bittersweetness of senior year, when and how to come out as bi, and her burgeoning crush on new friend group addition, Abby.

Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu (First Second, 288 pp., $23.99) Charm radiates off this graphic novel about gay romance, friendships, and college hockey, which collects the first half of the beloved webcomic series about vlogger and compulsive baker Eric Bittle.

P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) The Netflix sequel deal is officially signed, so there's no better time to read parts two and three of Han's funny, tender To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy.

Emergency Contact

by Mary H.K. Choi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 400 pp., $17.99

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