I’m starting October with a not very spooky read, Permanent Record, as I’m currently waiting for my spooky reads to come in at the library. Permanent Record is Mary H.K. Choi’s second novel and as a big fan of Emergency Contact, I was very excited about this book.
Pablo Neruda Rind is a college dropout, confused at life, 20-year-old bodega cashier in Brooklyn, and in credit card debt. Pablo spends most of his nights as a cashier making up stories about his regular customers as entertainment when one day, a very eccentrically dressed woman walks into the store and hands Pablo her credit card. This is when Pablo realizes that this woman is Leanna Smart, an ex-Disney star, turned pop singer. Pablo is captivated by her personality and never expects to see her again after their one-night ice cream sharing snack session. However, a few weeks later, Leanna pops up back into the store, and this time Pablo asks her out. The two begin a very secret romance that is limited to texting, face time, and short phone calls. However, when Pablo is not with Leanna, he’s busy dodging his debt collectors and swerving his mother’s “what do you want in life talks.” The more that Pablo entangles himself with Leanna’s life, the more he neglects his own. But, once Pablo starts to notice just how different Leanna’s life is, he starts to find it harder to ignore what is really going on with him.
This book is told through Pablo’s point a view, as a half Korean, half Pakistani twenty-year-old New Yorker. There is a lot of diversity in this book. Almost all the characters are people of color, Pablo’s roommates, his boss, coworkers, school staff, Leanna herself is half Mexican, and one of the handfuls of characters that can speak another language. I loved this aspect of the book because there are many novels set in New York that do not make people of color visible, which I feel is ignorant considering New York’s history of immigration.
Pablo’s parents are both college-educated, his father was born in New Jersey and studied engineering while his mother migrated to the U.S at age nine and studied medicine, so this makes Pablo feel a bit inadequate but not enough to push himself into reapplying to college. College was one of the main topics of this book. Pablo either had friends who graduated or dropped out, Leanna herself wished she could attend college too. Pablo does not know what he wants to study or what he wants to do with his own life, but his goal for most of the book is to get back into NYU as if attending would give him direction in his life. I have very often heard people give the advice, “don’t worry you’ll figure it out” in college, which could be the case for some people but not everyone. I think Pablo was right in holding off on college until he figured himself out. One thing I noticed that is the same from Emergency contact is Choi writing style which includes the character oversharing every small detail and runaway thought. I enjoyed that kind of extra-ness but I don’t think it’s for everyone.
Choi makes it clear that Leanna is very busy, either touring, taking business meetings, or at meet and greets, but sometimes she only gives Pablo half her attention. This later drives a wedge in their relationship. For instance, Leanna lies to Pablo while he’s in Korea and promises to show him Seoul. However, Pablo later learns his girlfriend was in a business meeting in China. When Leanna finally gets back in Korea, she apologizes to Pablo and gives him her apology but continues to text on her phone that was really when I was done with her. She hardly gets to see her boyfriend, and when she’s finally with him, she decides not to give him her full attention. This was when I started to realize that Leanna wants a boyfriend that can conform to her schedule, or else it would never work out. That’s asking a lot for anyone.
Additionally, when Leanna and Pablo are caught by the paparazzi, Leanna refuses to explain to Pablo what “it’s taken care of” means as if it’s a dirty secret. An explanation would have taken two seconds, Leanna later accuses Pablo of wanting to benefit from her fame. Like really, girl? I’m pretty sure it was made clear that he does not want that, or your money when he turned down that expensive coat, she tried to buy him.
Lastly, I feel like I never got to know Leanna at all. Who was her father? Does she still speak to her mother? What was it like to be emancipated at 15 at then be managed by another teenager? Why Pablo? Pablo acted like he knew a lot about her but maybe he only thought he did.
One thing that I wanted to be addressed was why Leanna chose to use the name Leanna Smart instead of her real name, Carolina Suarez. I think this point would have added to the other Hollywood/ media racism that was brought up by Tice’s tv role. And maybe it could have added a little more insight into Leanna’s character.
The following sentence is going to spoil the ending, so just skip this whole paragraph if you have to. I only like to read books with a happy ending, because I need some fluff and happiness in my life, and I like to see the characters happy. But this book does not give us that, and I was really glad it did not. Leanna and Pablo were not a good fit at this moment in their lives, and although they would have made a great couple, I think they were better apart.
My rating for this book
Until next time continue living in libros,