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Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Young adult

Permanent Record

by Mary H.K. Choi

Excellent choice

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Quick take

From the author of Emergency Contact, a coming-of-age read that gets what aimlessly navigating your 20s feels like.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Snarky



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…

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Free sample

Check out a preview of Permanent Record.
Permanent Record

Chapter 1

I don’t care what any of the assholes I live with tell you. I don’t work at a bodega. It’s a health food store. Says right there on the sign: M&A JUICE BAR DELI ORGANIC GROCERY CORP.

Whatever. It’s implied.

In any case, it’s well lit, huge by New York standards, with a battalion of Vitamix blenders right up front—4K worth at least. Plus, we sell every type of rich-people fetish food. Are you in the market for organic, non-sulfur-treated goji berries at eighteen bucks a bag? We got you. Gluten-free, sugar-free, dye free cake for your non-immunized kid’s next birthday? Yep. We even have cake mix with gluten that’s just as expensive because it’s ironic. See, we’re fancy, not at all a bodega, never mind that we’re open twenty-four hours a day, are owned by no-nonsense Koreans, and have a deli cat named Gusto. I’m telling you: Not. A. Bodega.

Still, I just wish the damn health food store were a little closer to my apartment. Especially when the windchill mauls your face-meat to ribbons.

I slide my MetroCard smoothly—quickly—bracing for the clang, that hip check of an expired pass, but the turnstile clicks me through.

The reader flashes EXP 2/13.

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Why I love it

What we love most about recommending books for “Why Not YA?” is the reaction we get from readers when they dive into a YA novel they didn’t know they needed to read. And that’s exactly how we feel about Mary H.K. Choi’s Permanent Record.

In Permanent Record we meet Pablo, a recent NYU dropout who works at a bodega, just trying to figure out his life. One night while he’s working the graveyard shift, in walks Leanna Smart—a child star with a rabid fan base (think Ariana Grande or Selena Gomez)—and soon, a romance forms. What follows is a story written with so much honesty. We cringed as we watched Pablo make countless financial mistakes—but we also silently felt what that meant for his future, because haven’t we all done that at some point? We also deeply related to Pablo’s conflicted feelings on intimacy in the age of social media; on the one hand, we’re all connected, but on the other, there’s this element of isolation.

This book was easily a favorite to read, and the conversation we struck up with Mary just sealed the deal. A pop culture writer herself, Mary drew on her own experiences (I mean come on, she was one of only 140 journalists who got to jet-set with RiRi), and you can absolutely sense that in this story. At first you might be annoyed with Leanna, the pop culture icon—but as you get to know her, you’ll start to feel for her, and inevitably, you’ll be rooting for a relationship with so many odds stacked against it. Permanent Record is a roller coaster in the best possible way. It’s your juicy, funny, adorable, and utterly ridiculous rom-com that you must read now.

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Member ratings (689)

  • Zulema M.

    The Dalles, OR

    Mary H. K. Choi has done it again! I didn’t think she’d be able to come close to the magic that is Emergency Contact but Pablo and Lena’s story is a sweet one. And one that I’d read again and again

  • Gillian M.

    Seabrook Island, SC

    This book snuck up on me and slowly revealed the main character’s true situation being more dire than just average 20 year old malaise and confusion. I didn’t go how I expected and I’m glad for it!

  • Nia A.

    Atlanta, GA

    This book made me laugh out loud. The MC's struggles are relatable & Choi does a wonderful job balancing humor with more serious topics. The attention to detail does a wonderful job capturing setting.

  • Abbie U.

    Bryn Mawr , PA

    very sweet and romantic, loved the diversity and how social media played a part in the story, because it is a huge part of everyone's life, and it doesn't show up in literature as often as it should.

  • Sheri G.

    Brooklyn, NY

    Fast read - loved the imperfect ending - a story of how people come into your life and though you want more of your time with them, they exist there sole to help you overcome hour deepest struggles.

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