Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi: A Relatable and Modern Contemporary feat. 20 year-old Characters

Mary H.K. Choi’s Permanent Record is not a love story.

It’s a coming of age story.

Choi’s writing style is refreshing and extremely appealing to an infrequently catered to market. It’s labeled as YA by Simon and Schuster (14+), but I think the people who will enjoy and relate to this the most are college students and 20 year olds.

It’s a story about making mistakes and picking yourself up. It’s a story about finding your passion. It’s a story about dealing with everything life throws at you and trying to stay afloat in our deeply flawed society.

One of this story’s biggest triumphs is how it’s truly a piece of 2019 fiction.

Choi seamlessly incorporates subtle details that really make her novels modern and relatable and contemporary. Like her debut Emergency Contact, Permanent Record takes into account how social media is influencing life. We get meme culture, checking out your crush on Instagram, New York slang, and so much more.

Even writing from a male point of view, Choi manages to get it. Pablo sounded authentic and just as tired as all of us are.

I think anyone who is familiar with millennial culture will really relate to, or at the very least understand, this–crushing student loans and credit card debt, a sort of lost feeling that Pablo has. He’s trying to get his life back on track as a 20 year old college drop out, and it’s not easy.

He’s half Pakistani half Korean and has diaspora struggles that many of us feel. He also has depression and it’s a huge factor in his actions.

I was definitely undecided & wary about Leanna Smart.

If you didn’t know already, this book would fall under the “includes a romance with a famous person” category, but like I said, it’s not a love story.

I won’t spoil it publicly, but I’m pretty sure you can deduce based on my reactions. But for a large portion of the book, I was on edge about Leanna Smart and her relationship with Pablo. But by the end, I really appreciated what Choi did with the relationship.

Pablo, to be frank, is not in a place where he wants to start a relationship–especially not one with such a high-profile person. And the way Choi writes it all out makes this more apparent, and I really appreciated it. I think she did a subtle and smart job with this specific element, and it really is a good ending.

I thought Leanna was super cool and definitely a nice juxtaposition of a love interest, but she’s not the main protagonist and this is Pablo’s coming of age story. At age 20. (Which is something that’s missing from our current landscape of commercial fiction.)

Permanent Record brings the same modern relatability in its story that Emergency Contact did–and it’s a well-needed development.

I do think there were areas where I wasn’t completely hooked, and part of that is definitely attached to my hesitancy about the relationship with Leanne, but I think overall, Permanent Record is doing important work in opening up a new space for a group of readers who don’t normally get represented in fiction.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily call Permanent Record YA (it’s definitely more NA or plain old adult with its story geared more towards 20 year olds), I think it’s still a really relatable read to older YA readers and 20 year olds, as well as a really honest and genuine coming of age story of Pablo.

It’s a lot of things woven seamlessly together and I’m looking forward to what Choi writes next.

4 stars

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Emergency Contact, which Rainbow Rowell called “smart and funny,” comes an unforgettable new romance about how social media influences relationships every day.

On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

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Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for TheNew York TimesGQWired, and TheAtlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Her debut novel Emergency Contact was a New York Times bestseller. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs and Hey, Cool Life!, a podcast about mental health and creativity. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ChoitotheWorld.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review as part of their blog tour! Plus, check out more reviews of Permanent Record in the coming weeks on the following blogs!

August 26thVicky Who Reads (you are HERE!) | August 27thAdventures of a Book Junkie |August 28thUtopia State of Mind | August 29thRead by Tiffany | August 30thRich in Color | August 31stYour Tita Kate | September 2ndBooks on Pointe | September 3rdAndi’s ABCs | September 4thBook Scents | September 5thTwirling Pages | September 6thBookshelves & Paperbacks | September 9thYA Bibliophile | September 10thMary Had A Little Book Blog | September 11thChasing Faerytales | September 12thNicole’s Novel Reads | September 13thMel to the Any

Have you read Emergency Contact? Are you excited for Permanent Record?

5 thoughts on “Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi: A Relatable and Modern Contemporary feat. 20 year-old Characters

  1. I appreciated the modern issues dealt with in this book..but I didn’t love it. I had no idea what Pablo wanted and even by the end, what did he get out of it all? Both he and Leanna felt unfully fleshed out to me–even if they were dealing with “real” issues.


  2. Great review! I’ll be looking out for it, how did I just know it was Mary HK Choi by the cover art haha and here the debate of YA vs NA starts again, it is crazy how important that genre is in terms of categorisation


  3. i don’t know why i thought this book was a graphic novel???? i’m definitely excited to read it because it falls right into my category: 20 years old, gen z/millennial, living alone, meme culture, etc. i never read anything by mary h.k. choi so im excited to see if i’ll like her writing! i loved this review!


  4. Great review, Vicky!! I had mixed feelings about Emergency Contact, so I’ve been a little bit hesitant to try this one out. I’ve certainly been excited for its release, and your review is making it sound like it’s something I’ll enjoy. My only concern as of now, would be the relationship. Haha!


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