Permanent Record: Young Readers Edition

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Permanent Record: Young Readers Edition Book Poster Image
Exciting spy memoir hits digital privacy, exposing secrets.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Raises questions about privacy, patriotism, and government overreach. Should the government be able to spy on its citizens?

Positive Messages

It's sometimes necessary to serve justice by breaking the law. A single individual can effect major change.

Positive Role Models

Edward Snowden portrays himself as a well-intentioned whistleblower, ready to defend the Constitution, even if he may well go to jail.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Permanent Record: Young Readers Edition is a memoir by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. At age 29, Snowden released top-secret documents proving that the U.S. government routinely and illegally spied on private citizens. His actions led him to political exile in Russia. Unlike a James Bond movie, there is no sex, violence, smoking, or drinking in this tale of espionage.

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What's the story?

PERMANENT RECORD traces Edward Snowden's life from his childhood in North Carolina to his exile in Moscow. Entranced by his father's computer, Snowden learned how to program at an early age and worked for the CIA and the National Security Agency in his 20s. When he discovered that the NSA and other government agencies were secretly recording texts, emails, and phone calls of U.S. citizens, he decided to make his findings available to the public and the media. In 2013, he went on the run, desperately searching for someone to trust.

Is it any good?

It may be tempting to gussy-up a tale of espionage with false hype, but this thoughtful memoir portrays the real-life perils of working against your own government. Whistleblower Edward Snowden doesn't indulge in self-pity or false modesty, but sets out the step-by-step path he took from being an ambitious and dedicated CIA employee to deciding to abandon life in the United States and alert the world to the covert surveillance conducted by the CIA, the NSA, and others. For readers interested in protecting their privacy, Snowden offers some useful tips. Permanent Record offers much food for thought and tells an important story for anyone who uses a smartphone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Permanent Record addresses the issue of privacy. Should private citizens expect that their phone calls are not recorded, that their emails are not read by others?

  • Can you imagine what it would be like to never be able to return to your country of origin? What would you need in order to establish a new life for yourself?

  • Is Edward Snowden a patriot, or a traitor? How do governments justify the punishment of spies or whistleblowers?

Book details

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For kids who love memoirs and nonfiction

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