Permanent Record is a YA novel written by Mary H. K. Choi. Even though I’m one of those jaded xennials and moving farther away from the target demographic every year, I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because the premise sounded interesting.
Pablo dropped out of college, and now spends his nights working in a NYC deli, and he’s quick to inform the reader that even though it’s open 24 hours, it’s not a bodega because it sells all sorts of fancy rich-people-food.
One night, a girl comes into the not-bodega, and Pablo recognizes her- she’s Leanna Smart- a child star who grew up into an international pop sensation. They strike up a conversation, and Leanna is impressed that Pablo doesn’t recognize her right away. This is, perhaps, why she invites Pablo into her inner circle.
And so, Pablo- who had a cosmopolitan childhood, although he didn’t grow up wealthy- finds himself whisked around on a private jet, as he becomes better acquainted with the real Leanna Smart. He’s supposed to be sorting out his own life, and now he finds himself experiencing a lifestyle where maintaining a façade is a prerequisite for success.
This was an interesting book. Choi uses a first-person narrative, and Pablo is an ideal narrator. He’s astute, and he has a delightful sense of humor. He’s fairly reliable: he has a lot going on that he’s been avoiding, but he knows he’s avoiding it, so therefore the reader knows it as well. He’s a savvy kid, so it was funny to see him befuddled when Leanna suggests something completely outlandish (although normal for her).
Leanna, for what it’s worth, is sweet, but she’s been caught up in the entertainment complex for almost her entire life, so she takes some things for granted (although this is likely unintentional). She’s fiercely private, and taking a chance on Pablo is a big risk.
I should also mention that I appreciated that the diversity in the characters. Pablo is half-Pakistani and half-Korean, and his friends are also multicultural as well. Even Leanna, who presents as generically European, is half-Mexican.
I would recommend Permanent Record. This is a thoughtful take on the futility of Generation Z; these kids are growing up in an uncertain world, and just trying to make their mark on the world as countless generations have done before them. Leanna arrives into Pablo’s life during a time in which he is most in need of change. He’s not sure what to expect with Leanna, and doesn’t quite know what to do with what he receives. I enjoyed reading this book, and I’m certainly going to check out more of Choi’s books in the future.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.