Written by Mary H. K. Choi
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: September 3, 2019
Nineteen-year-old Pablo Neruda Rind is a lot of things: snack food aficionado, NYU dropout, and deeply in debt. He’s working the night shift at a bodega when the stars align (or the pop stars align): superstar Leanna Smart comes in, picks out snacks, and sparks fly. Soon Pablo has two separate lives: the jet-setter life with Leanna and the one he’s avoiding back home. But you can only avoid debt collectors, parents, and roommates for so long.
Is this a love story? No. This is the story of a 19-year-old who simply cannot get it together. Pablo is whip-smart and talented and absolutely maddening. Why? Because author Mary H. K. Choi captures the haziness and frustration of almost-adulthood with perfect pitch. The romance between Pablo and Leanna isn’t that far-fetched on paper—her megastar life is paparazzi-ridden and exhausting, his life is debt-ridden and tiring. This romance lets them both disconnect from what drains them. The difference is that Leanna is committed to her popstar life, whereas Pablo wants to check out of his. Which he does. It is not an easy feat, because, for all its complications, Pablo’s life is filled with people who love him. Watching him blow off his little brother or screen his mom’s calls aren’t easy for the reader. But it is possible for Pablo because he’s got his own script: his single mom is wedded to her work, she won’t even take them to Korea to visit their family; his dad is no role model, a Princeton engineer who now dabbles in playwriting? Please. And his little brother? Well, if his little brother knew about Leanna Smart, he would understand. The thing is, Pablo’s family and friends—heck, even his bosses at the bodega!—they do understand. But Pablo doesn’t hear it. At least, he doesn’t hear it, until finally, finally he does.
This is an excellent read for anyone who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up.