I love going into a book knowing not a single thing about it. I knew Mary HK Choi wrote Emergency Contact, and I know people liked it, and I knew she wrote for upper-YA levels (as in over 18) but I had no idea what Permanent Record was about. Frankly, even after reading it, I’m not entirely sure, but it was an interesting ride and I didn’t hate it. I’d give it three stars.
Pablo is working late-nights at a health food bodega to pay the bills while crippling credit card and student loan debt piles up around him, making snack combos and taking pictures of them, but then a literal star walks into his bodega. Not once, but twice. Leanna Smart is the Taylor Swift of this world but on crack–music, perfumes, ads, wants to get into movies, private jets, the like. And they hit things off because this is YA and of course they do. But it’s not all fun and games. Sure, there’s immediate chemistry and cute chats with grandmothers and private hotel suites, but there’s also lying to your friends about where you are and singing Non-Disclosure Agreements and oh yeah, feeling inadequate. Throughout the book, Pablo is both trying to be with Lee and also figure out what the hell is going on in his life.
I liked the star-crossed-lovers aspect of this book, almost like inverted fanfiction, but I was just so uncompelled by Pablo’s character arc. It’s not there. He’s kind of a loser, tbh. Yeah, I feel bad that he’s got caught up in all these loans, but also…what does he want? Lee? Why? What makes him happy? Snacks? As Lee says at one point…where’s the ambition? I was still into this book because I wanted to see how it would all play out, but Pablo is like the complete opposite of a book boyfriend and I was so unattracted to him the whole time. Sorry, not sorry.
The book does deal with some great topics related to celebrity culture, student loan debt, and family, but ultimately, it was just fine.