Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
ISBN: 11534445978
Pages: 400
Publication Date: September 3rd 2019
Personal Rating: 4/5

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young for giving me an e-galley of this novel via net galley for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Pablo Rind is a recent college dropout working the graveyard ship at his local twenty-four-hour health food store. This Korean/Paksitani kid dropped out of his dream school, NYU, after a single semester and is trying to build the courage to reapply while saving up money as the debt collectors continuously flood his phone with calls.

Pablo desperately wants his life to go well, but he does not know what he wants. He does not even know what he wants to do in college. He just does not know. Then one night while at work, a young Mexican girl comes crashing in getting an arrange of snacks that Pablo appreciates. While ringing her items up he realizes that the girl in front of him is none other the Leanna Smart, one of America’s biggest star…so he does the only logical thing and asks about credit cards with the best flight mileage points.

While this is a “romance” contemporary novel, the romance plays a small factor in the story. Yes, Pablo is header heels over Leanna Smart, but during their relationship, he has other things on his mind. He is constantly thinking about how his life is falling apart and he wants this relationship to work so he could at least have something positive occur. Through Leanna, Pablo can discover who he is and get a general idea of what he might want to do with his life.

Pablo’s inner monologue throughout the novel is witty, agonizing and relatable. Life is hard when you have a strict Korean mom who happens to a be a doctor and a college professor Princeton alum dad with a loose Muslim faith that is trying to become a playwright. The relationship Pablo has with his family is a bit heart wrenching, because you, as a reader, can see how worried his mom, dad, and brother are, but Pablo is too ashamed of his failures to truly face them.

Choi’s language in her writing allows the characters to be undeniably millennial. She’s able to truly make the reader care for Pablo in moments of anxiety and emergency. She was unforgivingly brutal how money shapes and changes a person, painting a clear picture of how painful it is to see $400 disappear in front of your eyes for the sake of health and how baffling it is to watch someone drop $4,000 on a gift.

Pablo is the true essence of what it feels like to be in your twenties in the USA — struggling to pay got college, realizing the dangers of credit cards, trying to pay rent, and having an anxious pit in your stomach while you watch people around you be successful while you feel like you are stuck in a singular pothole with no way out.

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