Emergency Contact (Choi) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for EMERGENCY CONTACT … then take off on your own:

1. Describe Penny and Sam. What do we come to learn about them through their texts? What character traits lay beneath their witty repartee? Some readers have found Penny overly judgmental to the point of unpleasantness, preferring Sam's character over hers. What's your opinion?

2. In what way is the texting between Penny and Sam confessional? How does the couple's texting evolve over time? Importantly, how do Penny and Sam themselves evolve over the course of the novel—or do they?

3. Consider Penny's mother, Celeste, who "resembled an incoming freshman as much as Penny did." What do you think of her? What about the other characters—Jude, Mallory, Lorraine, and Andy?

4. How is texting easier or safer than personal contact—in which two people have to look each other in the eye? Consider, for instance, Sam's worries about the way Penny might judge his impoverished background.

5. Is a virtual relationship as real or legitimate as an "in-person" relationship? Is it possible to "know" someone through texting? Is texting any different than being pen pals through the written and mailed letters of a previous generation? If either your child or a close friend confided in you about a new romance via texting, how would you respond?

6. Consider the nature of the couple's texting, its intimate revelatory nature. Then consider the book's title. Why might that title be seen as ironic, or at least engendering a different take on the word "emergency"? And yet in other ways, "emergency" is an absolutely appropriate word for the relationship between Sam and Penny. How so?

7. Author Mary H.K. Choi has said of her novel, "high-key nothing happens." Does nothing happen in this book? What do you think?

8. Penny gets some of the novel's best lines. What are some of your favorites? What do you make, for instance, of the multiple choice list she creates for responding to personal slights?

9. Penny describes her relationship with Sam: "It wasn't a romance; it was too perfect for that. Care to comment—what does it mean when a relationship is too perfect for a romance?

10. If you're over 30, is the teenage text lingo difficult to grasp? Does the overall language make the novel work for you? Or do you find it off putting?

11. By the novel's end, what are your hopes/expectations for Penny and Sam?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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