Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 3rd, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
“Life isn’t a destination. It’s the continual practice of things that make you wiser and happier.”
*ARC received by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
For #AsianReadathon, I planned on reading Emergency Contact, but never got around to it. So when I was approved for the ARC for Permanent Record, I knew I had to take advantage of it!
Pablo Rind is a college dropout who doesn’t seem to have a whole lot going for him. He works the graveyard shift at a 24 hour deli in Brooklyn, but he’s drowning in credit card debt and student loans. His life is on a completely different path than Leanna Smart, who is a pop juggernaut with a social media following enough to populate continents.
When Leanna and Pablo meet at the bodega at 5:00 a.m. in the dead of winter, it’s weird t think that they’d be “A Thing.” But they soon discover who they are, who they want to be, and how they’re defying expectations of everyone else. Lee and Pab turn to each other, but that’s when it gets complicated.
I wish I read this when before going to university and after I graduated. Pablo’s concerns and him fighting against his parents’ traditional views of education were very relatable.
I liked that Choi made it a point through Pablo that it’s okay to feel lost. At twenty years old, it’s not the end of the world to not have everything figured out. It’s certainly fine to dropout of school and figure things out in a different way. At times, it felt eerie because I was reading things Pablo was saying and thinking that I’ve said and thought, too.
I’m really glad we didn’t get Lee’s perspective because I was already so annoyed with her throughout the book. Her crying about what a hard life it was to be rich and famous got a little bit too much for me. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when she was crying about it.
Listen, I get that you make some sacrifices when you lead that kind of life. But her complaining about it to Pablo was hilarious. However, one thing I did like with Lee was that she was the famous, jet-setting person taking Pablo along for the ride. I think we’ve seen way too many books, movies, and TV shows where the man is the one who gives the woman a taste of the fabulous, rich life.
I just found her character to be incredibly immature. I was shocked when her real age was revealed and she’s two years older than Pablo. Apart from that, I definitely could see what Choi was trying to achieve with her character.
We get to see the deconstruction of the modern pop star: we see the downside of fame, the lack of privacy, the inappropriate behaviour of fans, and this feeling that we own famous people/are entitled to their time and attention. It’s definitely something kids these days can relate to now that our definition of a “celebrity” has expanded and now includes “regular” tweens and teens from social media.
But overall, I really enjoyed this book. I can’t wait to pick up Emergency Contact by Choi. Permanent Record isn’t a perfect book, but it’s a fun and quick read. I hesitated to give this book 4 bubble teas because I’ve never been a huge fan of the “insta-love” trope and I found Lee and Pab’s scenes to be a bit cringey sometimes. But I did appreciate Choi’s balance between capturing the nuances of social media, societal expectations, and our society’s obsession with fame.
Also, is it just me or does Choi consistently have stunning book covers? Girl, continue working with this artist, please!