In the third quarter of this year, I began to feel somewhat overly satiated by self-help books. Trust me, I love the genre and I swear by all the self-help books I’ve read so far. However, I wanted to get exposed to a new genre, and for some reason, my inner bookworm compass directed me to the Young Adult category. Yes, I was a 27-year old adult who found herself craving for some Rom-Com Young Adult books. I had been reading several self-help books consecutively that I missed reading fiction and prose form. I wanted a light read that’s both romantic and funny, and I thought that Rom-Com Young Adult would be the perfect genre.
As if my favorite bookstore was aware of my situation, Fully Booked posted a marketing tweet promoting “Permanent Record” by Mary H.K. Choi. The synopsis and the artistic book coverr convinced me to grab a copy. The tweet showed up at the perfect timing.
A week later on September 14, I attended the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) and successfully bought a copy with a 20% discount. Just awesome!
And then last December 13 at around 1:38AM, I finally finished the book. Once again, I felt the familiar empty feeling one feels after finishing a good book. I enjoyed every word, every character, every page.
Plot and Themes
Pablo–our Pakistani-Korean protagonist who’s a college dropout drowning in credit card debts and student loan–met singer-actress Leanna Smart during his shift at the bodega he was working at. And it all started from there. Their relationship was full of sneaky dates, texting, and calling.
Just by looking at the plot, it’s easy for people to assume that it’s a superficial and star-crossed-lovers-type of a love story. But it’s definitely more than that. There are themes and lessons to be picked up about mental health, growing up, and dealing with family and self-esteem issues. Mary H.K. Choi did a great job of conveying these themes without it coming off too strong or severe. There’s also the practice of escapism in this story, which I’m familiar with because I also apply it in my own life (Don’t we all, though?).
The saddest thing for me about finishing this book is that I’m going to miss the characters! They are all so lovable, relatable, and hilarious. Pablo, aka Pab, is my favorite character because he’s relatable and funny. Most of his thoughts and words are identical to mine, and I found that very amusing. After him, my next favorites are his roommates: Tice, Wyn, Dara, and Miggs. Each of them, including Pablo, has their own distinct personality, and these personalities blend well and result in a family-like and fun environment. I wish I had roommates like them if I’m being honest.
Leanna Smart is cute and sweet but also sassy. The book shares her story from when she was just a child star, her family issues, up to her current state as a superstar. However, I still want to know more about her. Everything about her background seems to be only hinted at or not explained in detail. But I guess it’s alright because she’s not the focus of the story, it’s Pab. Also, perhaps Choi intended that because, in the real world, we never know the real deal about our favorite celebrities. No matter what or how much or how often they share on their Twitter or Instagram or reality show (if they have one), we’ll never see the real version of themselves.
Pab’s family members offer both serious and funny dynamics. His younger brother, Rain, is very hilarious and witty. His Korean mother is the serious and extremely hardworking type who’s also difficult to please. But of course, she’s still a loving mom. Pab’s Pakistani father is the total opposite of that, laid back and more approachable. I love their overall relationship dynamics.
The story is set in New York in the current era, with the mentions of the internet, smartphones, Google, YouTube, and Instagram.
Choi included numerous references that are specifically about New York or New York-related, and I had to Google them almost every time they popped up because I was not familiar with them. That was a bit inconvenient.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book for readers of Young Adult books or anyone who wants to try the genre. It’s funny, insightful, relatable, and paints a picture of a millennial love story set in the social media age.