Title: Permanent Record
Author: Leslie Stella
Obtained via: free ARC from publisher
I’m torn about Permanent Record, I really am. I should have loved it, but I didn’t. Some parts I enjoyed and some parts I didn’t. I’m so conflicted.
Badi Hessamizadeh is an Iranian-American teenager living in Chicago. He’s been bullied a lot for his ethnicity and sort of quirky personality. His family doesn’t seem to care, thinking he should just focus on his studies rather than concerning himself with how other kids see him, and everything just snowballs – to the point where he blows up a toilet to get back at the jocks who abuse him. Add to this a suicide attempt, and his father realizes something needs to change. Mr. Hessamizadeh changes Badi’s name to Bud Hess and enrolls him in Magnificat Academy, a private school, to give him a fresh start.
Things look like they might be different for Bud at Magnificat. He makes a couple friends, Nikki and Reggie, right off the bat, and even joins the school newspaper. But things soon start spinning out of control as Bud refuses to participate in the school chocolate bar fundraiser (I remember these from my time in Catholic high school), the school newspaper starts getting anonymous letters calling for rebellion, and the Magnificat jocks learn of Bud’s real name and the problems he had at his old school.
I had no problem with this part of the story. The writing was fine, but not spectacular, and the plot moved along slowly but steadily. I liked Nikki and Reggie and was proud of Bud for making some real friends. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Bud makes plans to bomb this new school too. Not a huge toilet bomb, but just enough to shock everybody. Of course, as all good protagonists must do, he decides against it at the last minute, severely injuring himself in an effort to remove the bomb from the premises. He’s then placed on suicide watch again, and for me, the whole book went downhill and wrapped up too quickly and too neatly.
There were several things in the story that I liked – Bud’s relationship with Dariush, the way Bud’s depression and anxiety were described (in a non-judgmental way), and when Bud got to be the hero with Nikki when they broke into the school, to name a few. But there were also things I didn’t like and didn’t think fit the story or added anything to the plot. These were things like the Bud-Nikki-Reggie love triangle. It just added unnecessary, boring drama. And though I liked Viola at first, I felt that her character did a complete 180 throughout the story and turned from someone relatable to someone I wouldn’t even want to know. Making her the source of the anonymous letters seemed out of character for her (though I knew it was coming), and I found it unlikely that she would let Bud take the heat for it, knowing what it’s like to be an outcast. I don’t think that she would have continued to write the letters knowing that Bud was getting in trouble for it. By the end of the book, it seemed like I was reading about a different character entirely.
In the end, I’d give the book 3/5. It’s not terrible, but it’s not awesome either. It’s a quick read and I don’t regret spending those few hours on it.
[Also posted here.]