This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record by Susannah Felts is about a Nashville teen named Vaughn who takes the summer to distance herself from her trio of superficial friends at the arts school she attends. While hanging out at a nearby park (nicknamed "Dragon Park" because of the decaying playground equipment in the shape of a dragon), she befriends her new neighbor Sophie. The friendship is somewhat lopsided and strained at times, as Sophie is a bit "wilder" than Vaughn and tries to get Vaughn to loosen up. Sophie ends up moving in with Vaughn and her formerly-hippie parents after a falling out with her mother. Sophie envies Vaughn's stable family life and school success, while Vaughn envies Sophie's relationship with her parents. Eventually, school starts and something happens at a party one night to split up their friendship. Vaughn tries to deal with her unfamiliar social situation and her sense of loss over Sophie. Since Vaughn had taken up photography over the summer and used Sophie as her primary subject, much of her way of facing and coping with these issues comes through her photography that she develops and shows in her new photography class.
I read the first half of this book over my Christmas vacation, but it was so slow-going for me that I abandoned it. I finally picked it up again yesterday and finished the second half in one quick sitting. I don't know if the second half just had more going on to hold my interest or what. I would most likely recommend this book to some of our voracious readers who have read most of our other books in this genre. One student in particular who doesn't like books where "unusual" things happen (isn't that a plot?) definitely comes to mind. This is certainly driven more by the characters' friendship developments than by plot. I could understand Vaughn's perspective of wanting to be friends with Sophie but not being entirely comfortable with all the things Sophie does. Vaughn's fallibility in not always doing the "right thing" was also something that seems very true-to-life.
One thing that I didn't really get about the book was why it is set in the 80s. I doubt most teens will get the smattering of pop culture references (mostly songs and bands), and there was nothing in this that seemed particularly "80s" to me. It could easily have been set in no particular time period, which makes it either/both transcendent and/or, possibly, unnecessarily limiting.
*Sorry I haven't posted about books in a while. I seem to have been reading mostly adult books lately.