Review : Permanent Record | Not as Pretty as the Cover I’m Afraid

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Description Summary | Beautifully written with plenty quotable lessons however plot confusions, stagnant character development, and sudden ending that came out of nowhere impacted what was a poignant and deep book.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Book Summary | (Skip to Review)

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…



Things to get out of reading this book:

  • The ending is not always roses and rainbows like this book predicts.
  • Your mental health issues is not an excuse to treat the people who care about you like dirt.

Both of these points and more I’ll be speaking about in detail in my below review.


This is a heavily character driven story and is an allegory to the complicated transition to adulthood. To say this story didn’t impact me someway is a lie, every emerging adult has faced the same helplessness and confusion that Pablo faces in his life (and if you didn’t you are one of the luckiest people alive). It signifies the huge distortion to what we are being taught and consumed in schools, the internet, and entertainment versus real life and it’s unfairness.

Necessarily I didn’t enjoy the book (I don’t think it’s one you would actively enjoy in), the characters are people I couldn’t relate to and Pablo’s journey changed from understanding to resentment to a mix of bitterness and pity. It’s the story that took a lot of my time and in the end I can’t tell you if it is truly worth it. Which is a problem.

Story Sub-points | Mental Health

You have the type of authors who write mental health in a blue landscape in order to keep a poetic essence about them. Others show the struggles and dark complexities of mental health like slow burn nightmares. Then you have Choi’s depiction of mental health: the bad and the ugly. These are the thoughts that are never said aloud. The rotten core of the spiraling thoughts. And I found this to be truthful and raw.

This is where the better part ends. Unfortunately what happens is that I see Pablo actively not choose to do anything even when solutions were being presented to him on a silver plate, he acted as if he’s alone but he had plenty of people who cared about him around him (his mother, his father, his brother, his roommates, his employer, and even his college counsellor).

He treated every single person like dirt. Really he was the worst to be around and it soon became like talking to a brick wall. As much as I empathize with his anxiety (I have it too), this is no excuse to treat people forgive my wording, like shit.


By far the best thing about this book is the writing (apart from that stunning cover), Choi’s writing is beautifully serene as it is sad. It really did feel like modern Haiku; so many quotable liners that would make great hipster tattoos.

Here are some of my favorites:

It’s demoralizing when wins have nothing to do with talent.

Humans are weird. The way hierarchies are so important to us.

I think about this a lot. The difference between watching and seeing.

Lawyers and courts are for adults, and right now I’m a far cry from one. I can’t adult. Most days, I can barely human.

Do the next right thing and don’t worry about anything else coming down the pike. You don’t have an audience. No one’s judging you. Do the work.

Find joy in the learning, Pablo, not in what will it get you. It took me so much searching to stop searching. Art is fueled by longing but you must learn to want what you have, not get what you want. It’s the only way to stop suffering. I pray that you’ll know this meaning by the time you’re my age.



Oh Pablo, I only wish I’d never get as lost as he is. If there is one way to approach his character it would be “proceed with caution”. His character development was practically nonexistent most of the book and it’s why I took so long with the book. I found his ending too sudden and quick, and is contradictory to some of the messages arisen in the book.


Unsurprisingly Leanna is a top notch narcissist (I guess when you’re raised by Hollywood you have to have some sort of ego). She had no POVs and I think that impacted the book significantly, though she is on the cover of the book I felt she had no presence. I felt nothing for the romance either and at times it was painful to watch really.

Do I recommend? If you’re looking for butterflies than this is not the romance book for you.

Thanks for reading! Anyone else read Permanent Record? Is it on your TBR?


Published by jawahirthebookworm

Hello I’m Jawahir the bookworm, a lost twenty-something year old bookish blogger who enjoys her books with a cup of strong coffee; milk no sugar no cream.

7 thoughts on “Review : Permanent Record | Not as Pretty as the Cover I’m Afraid

  1. Great review, I’ve actually been struggling to make my way through Permanent Record and I like that you delve into the writing because I love it too, I think I’m just having trouble connecting with the characters for some reason. Hopefully I’ll delve back into this one again soon! Loved reading your thoughts! 💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand too, the characters were so hard for me to connect to as well but you can’t deny the captivating writing of Mary H.K Choi. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to know your thoughts if you ever decide to finish the book!

      Liked by 1 person

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