There are times when you read a contemporary novel and finish the book feeling all warm and fuzzy inside after concluding the sweet romance in a happily ever after. Other times, you’ll close the book and sit there for the next few minutes deep in thought. ☁️ Permanent Record was an introspective story about personal growth, family, and a desire for something better. In comparison to her debut novel, Emergency Contact, Mary HK Choi’s sophomore novel has a more wistful and mature tone, yet it still presents the same thoughtful prose that encourages everyone to look deeper at their actions and passions in life.
PERMANENT RECORD by Mary H.K. Choi
PUBLISHED BY Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster) on September 3rd 2019
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.
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…
Trigger/Content Warnings: financial debt, mention of recreational drug use
Book Review ✏️
Permanent Record follows the perspective of Pablo (Pab) Neruda Rind, a half-Korean and half-Pakistani college dropout, who works the night shift at a local health foods store in hopes of paying off his overwhelming college and credit card debt. One late night winter morning at 4AM, a strange girl stumbles into the store looking for all the possible junk food combinations. 🌙 The girl unexpectedly turns out to be Leanna Smart, a famous pop star and social media celebrity, and Leanna and Pab end up flirting and joking around, beginning a whirlwind romance that is filled with emotion, spontaneity, passion, and worries.
Mary HK Choi’s writing is easy to read with one page flying by after another, and the overall tone of the story is more mature and dreamlike— reading this book felt like having a late-night talk with a close friend. In comparison to Emergency Contact which has a more hopeful tone since Penny starting her freshman year of college, Permanent Record felt unafraid to be a bit more somber. Her language manages to capture the millennial spirit from social media exchanges to everyday language with friends. The issues this book tackles and the framing of each character felt very relatable as a 20-year-old college student.
“God, this country. It’s so predatory.”
Personally, I think what makes this story so spectacular is that it goes beyond a simple love story. The synopsis does set the book to seem like a budding romance after an accidental meet-cute. However, I would argue that Permanent Record is more about Pablo’s story of picking himself up again after life knocks him down. 💛 Faced with crippling amounts of debt and no college degree, he’s unsure of how to support himself and his family, and Choi isn’t afraid to show the harsh realities of society through an unfiltered lens with raw, genuine emotions.
Another underlying subplot of the story is Pablo’s relationship with his family, specifically his misfit younger brother in middle school who never fails to rebel and get into trouble, his South Korean mother whose relationship with him is strained due to him dropping out of college, and his Pakistani father who is less hands-on in his life. He struggles with identity as a child of diaspora, and throughout the story, he contemplates each family relationship and how it has shaped and will continue to shape him for the future.
“Life isn’t a destination. It’s the continual practice of things that make you wiser and happier”
Permanent Record was the thought-provoking, coming-of-age story that I didn’t know I needed. If you read and enjoyed the plotline of Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo or fell in love with the late-night setting in Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett, this is a book that you NEED to pick up. Set as a slice-of-life story, Permanent Record spoke to my 20-year-old heart, and I can’t wait to see what Mary HK Choi writes next. ✨
About the Author
Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York Times, GQ, Wired, and The Atlantic. 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 and Goodreads.
🌟 Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review as part of their blog tour. Be sure to check out the full blog tour schedule to see all the amazing reviews! 🌟
August 26th – Vicky Who Reads
August 27th – Adventures of a Book Junkie
August 28th – Utopia State of Mind
August 29th – Read by Tiffany
August 30th – Rich in Color
August 31st – Your Tita Kate
September 2nd – Books on Pointe
September 3rd – Andi’s ABCs
September 4th – Book Scents
September 5th – Twirling Pages
September 6th – Bookshelves & Paperbacks
September 9th – YA Bibliophile
September 10th – Mary Had A Little Book Blog
September 11th – Chasing Faerytales
September 12th – Nicole’s Novel Reads
September 13th – Mel to the Any
Have you read Permanent Record?
What were your thoughts?
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19 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review (ARC): Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi”
lovely review as always! i can’t wait to buy this book next week, i love the premise of it!
Thank you!! It was a really great read, and if you enjoyed Emergency Contact, I think you’ll like this one too!
Your reviews are always so wonderful! I thought that this would be a cute romance, but I love that it tackles some heavier topics, and I think that I would relate to Pablo a lot based on your review. And can I just say for the 48954955th time that your aesthetic is ON POINT? wow.
CAITLIN YOU MAKE ME CRYYYY 😭 It’s definitely beyond a cute romance, but I think that’s what made it pretty enjoyable. Reading it kinda made me emo and introspective…I hope you enjoy it when/if you do pick it up!! and kafjdsalkfjasklfjas CAN I JUST SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU??? WOW.
I LOVE YOU TOO FKNVFDNFD 😭😭💖💖💖💕
im really excited to read this especially because there’s some pakistani rep in this and just see all the family aspects to it? i still need to read emergancy contact tho!! both the covers are gorgeous and so is this review ❤
Yes!! There’s some talk about his biracial identity, and family conflicts and relationships also play a big part in the story 💛 Emergency Contact is a little more light than Permanent Record, but I really enjoyed both still!! I WANNA KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IF YOU READ THEM(!!)
Yaay, I’m so happy you liked this one! I read Emergency Contact, and I wasn’t the biggest fan, but I was still super excited when I saw that the author was publishing another book! I got a copy of the ARC but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it 🙈 Hopefully I’ll read it this weekend, because your review has made me super excited for it!
YAY!! OK I think Emergency Contact is a little lighter than this book, but if you going into the story knowing that and expecting something more introspective, I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more!! Let me know what you think after you read it BECAUSE I WANNA KNOWWWWW
Ah Tiffany this is such a brilliant review and I am so happy you ended up enjoying this one so much ❤ I adore Emergency Contact with all of my heart and this book was one of my most anticipated reads and… I really enjoyed it, too. It feels a little different than the author's debut, but I just loved Pablo's journey and growth through the story and it's just so relatable and… SO REAL, somehow. We need more books like this one for sure 🙂
Fantastic review! ❤
YAY IM SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT MARIE!! I do think this will get differing responses because it’s kinda unexpected with the direction it took?? But I also like how REAL it felt. I don’t think Emergency Contact was super lighthearted, but it does feel so compared to PERMANENT RECORD. I’m really excited to see what else she writes in the future!! ❤️
Agree, I feel like, just like Emergency Contact, this one might get mixed reviews, but I personally loved it so much and will read everythinggggggggg from her ❤
(just writing it down here, I did something, I don’t know what, and the comment you left on my blog just disappeared and ugh 😭 just to tell you, I LOVE YOU and thank you for your sweet words and your support and everything, you are the absolute best and I don’t deserve you 😭)
I love this review almost as much as I love you 😎😎 I’m so happy you enjoyed this book — I still need to read Emergency Contact, which I’m hoping to love because I’m almost the same as the MC (Asian, kind of writer, and leaving near Austin lmao). This one sounds really beautiful though, and I’m also a big fan of celeb characters in books for some reason!!
OMG ok i think Mary HK Choi books have this kinda sad-ish undertone that’s very reflective and slightly existential (idk if i’m describing it properly) but i hope you really like it!! it’s honestly so different from typical contemporaries kinda so I WANNA HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS!!
Your review made me want to read it ASAP =)
Yes!! I’m so glad that you want to read it 🥰