On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.
Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.
When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Strong language, Strong sexual themes
Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Pablo has dropped out of college, is massively in debt, and feels aimless. One night when he is working the overnight shift at the 24-hour health food bodega, he meets Lee, who breaks him out of his rut. They have witty banter and great chemistry, but at the end of their encounter he figures out that she is Leanna Smart—the pop mega-star whose image is plastered everywhere and whose songs are inescapable on the radio. Navigating these barriers while falling in love pushes them into uncharted territory, and while it’s swoony and dramatic, it’s also messy and fraught. Choi (Emergency Contact) has penned a smart and funny read that is as much about finding your path as it is about falling in love. Pablo is a winning narrator with a natural voice, and readers will root for him in his romance with Lee, as well as on his rocky journey to self-actualization. Choi’s specificity, realistic dialogue, and humor ensure that the personal and romantic journeys feel warm and rewarding but never saccharine. Pablo’s friends and family, a diverse cast with rich inner lives of their own, are loving but firm with him, and readers will relate to the ultimate message of the book, delivered by his father: “Doing nothing is the only stupid.”
Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
A chance encounter between a college dropout and a pop star in a New York City deli leads to unexpected romance—and expected complications. Korean Pakistani American Pablo Rind, a former NYU student struggling to figure out what he wants to do with his life, is weighed down by a mountain of student loans and credit card debt. Feeling paralyzed by his Korean anesthesiologist mother’s high expectations, he works the graveyard shift at a deli. Into his monotonous existence comes Carolina Suarez, aka mega-star Leanna Smart, who enters the store early one morning on a snack run. Mutual attraction (and a shared love of snacks) leads to a whirlwind, jet-setting romance, but when the disparity between their worlds puts pressure on their relationship, Pablo is given the opportunity to come to some hard realizations about himself and the responsibilities he’s been avoiding for too long. That, along with some prodding from friends and family compels him to finally face what he needs to do in order to change his life, stop taking his loved ones for granted, and pursue his dreams. While the language has a contemporary feel and the range of diverse, appealing characters accurately reflects modern-day New York, the plot frequently drags, and character development is weak. Hip characters and jargon adorn a predictable storyline and unconvincing romance. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Mary H.K. Choi is a Korean-American author, editor, television and print journalist. She is the author of young adult novel Emergency Contact (2018). She is the culture correspondent on Vice News Tonight on HBO and was previously a columnist at Wired and Allure magazines as well as a freelance writer. She attended a large public high school in a suburb of San Antonio, then college at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Textile and Apparel.
Her website is www.choitotheworld.com.
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