Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Mary H.K. Choi's new novel is stymied by forgotten plot threads and a lack of depth

Book Review by Eugenie Johnson | 05 Nov 2019
  • Permanent Record - Mary H K Choi
Book title: Permanent Record
Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl hit it off. Girl just happens to be an international megastar. That’s the basic framework underpinning Mary H.K. Choi’s new young adult novel Permanent Record, which documents a star-crossed relationship from the perspective of college dropout Pablo Rind as he’s whisked away into a different reality by pop singer and former child star Leanna Smart.

Although underpinned by the blossoming romance, Choi also attempts to suggest how it’s possible to lose yourself to the reality of another, aided by social media and the aura of celebrity. However, the concept is stymied by the fact that issues within Pablo’s real life (including mounting debts, a dead-end job and his sometimes tense relationship with his family) are frustratingly often forgotten.

Although this could potentially be explained away by Pablo’s intense infatuation with Leanna, more engaging plotlines than the frequently sickly-sweet core affair are briefly introduced and then dropped in the blink of an eye. As a result, some characters’ actions and motivations can seem incomprehensible, with their lack of characterisation only adding to the confusion.

A rushed conclusion, in which several threads are hastily tied up, doesn’t ease the feeling that Permanent Record is a frustratingly superficial exploration of the complexities of navigating between adolescence and adulthood in contemporary society.  

Atom Books, 7 Nov, £7.99