This is an archived issue of Belletrista. If you are looking for the current issue, you can find it here
Belletrista - A site promoting translated women authored literature from around the world


by Susannah Felts
Reviewed by Ceri Evans

This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record defies categorisation; it is not merely a coming of age story, but neither is it a sugary high school drama nor a moralistic critique of the potential pitfalls of teenage life. This debut novel focuses on the importance of friendship and the lessons learned as you grow up-- sometimes surprising lessons—about what real friendship means.

Vaughn is the novel's narrator; she is 16 and lives with her parents in Nashville in a typical middle class suburb. Her pioneering parents have redecorated the house in the colours of their favourite foods. Into Vaughn's long, hot, languid summer comes the whirlwind that is Sophie. Vaughn is impressed by Sophie who is cool and indie, probably into the music that Vaughn reads about in magazines: "[there was] something about the girl…sitting there—long dark hair, skinny arms and legs—made me think she probably had stuff I needed to hear".

Vaughn and Sophie naturally strike up a friendship, as Vaughn recounts how alone she feels having taken the choice to drift apart from her three catty close friends, 'les Trois'. Although Vaughn is in awe of Sophie and feels awkward in her presence, she loves photography and takes many photos of Sophie. There is a delicate tension between the girls: Sophie is envious of Vaughn for her loving parents and her stable home life, and Vaughn is equally jealous of Sophie's apparently effortless charm. As the summer progresses, Sophie's Mum leaves Nashville and, not wanting to leave her new home, Sophie moves in with Vaughn's family. The two girls start to hang out with boys, and Vaughn begins to enjoy some of Sophie's pastimes, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana. As the nights out get longer, the boys get older and the friendship between the girls begins to wane.

Frankly, I was not bowled over by this novel. I have read better and funnier coming of age novels. Even so, This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record is worth reading. It is a gently realistic story about the fragile nature of teenage friendships and the clamour for acceptance and popularity—rites of passage that most adults can remember and relate to.