Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi (432 pages)
Permanent Record Takes Us From Brooklyn Bodegas To High-End LA Hotels
In Permanent Record, Pablo Rind dropped out of NYU after a semester and now works the night shift at a Brooklyn health food store (it’s a bodega, he just doesn’t like to admit it). Buried under credit card debt and student loans, Pablo lives with friends who are starting to figure out their own lives. Early one morning, a beautiful girl strolls into the bodega while Pablo’s working. They flirt a little and when she goes to pay, he realizes who she is: Leanna Smart—child star, pop singer, and international icon. Within days, he’s fallen into her world of private planes and fancy hotel suites, where money is no object but the Leanna Smart brand is paramount.
Pablo’s Authentic Voice Makes The Story
From the first page, Pablo’s voice drew me into the story. It’s clear and strong—ringing true even though he’s still uncertain about the world and his place in it. It’s evident from the onset that he’s a mostly-reliable narrator who’s not afraid to tell it like it is, but fears facing his own future. In the first few chapters, the balance of backstory with real-time events walks a fine line, but it’s necessary. The reader needs to understand Pablo’s life before a wrench (in the shape of a mysterious girl) is thrown into it. Because when Leanna Smart walks into his bodega, she flips Pablo’s world upside down. She’s unpredictable in the best way, especially since her strict schedule shouldn’t allow her to be spontaneous.
The moment Leanna jets Pablo away, the reality of his life falls away too, and the story seems to fly among the clouds. But every time Pablo returns to Brooklyn and is reminded of his job and debt, the story constricts, venturing into darker territory. It’s like Leanna controls the pace of his life, which emphasizes his (incorrect) assumption that money and fame have all the advantages, but no disadvantages. The fact that the pacing is controlled by a hard-to-pin-down character makes for a well-written, whirlwind tale.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
While I kept reading for Pablo’s distinct voice, the plot didn’t capture me as much as I’d hoped. However, the ending was quotable (teach-y but not preachy) and left me feeling uplifted. Read this if you want something super-contemporary (social media is a secondary character), have a desire to dive into gritty New York City, or need that essential reminder to keep going.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse