Permanent Record (2013) by Leslie Stella
“I get this feeling that something bad is happening, like I’m going to come home and find our building burned to the ground or white supremacists chasing my family around with baseball bats, or that this bus is going to crash into the bodega on Clark Street. My head won’t stop with this shit. I know it’s all anxiety. It pummels my brain with thoughts and images of horrible things going down. What is the matter with me? I’m sick of talking about myself. I’m sick of thinking about myself. I’m sick of myself.”
Leslie Stella’s Permanent Record tells the story of Badi Hessamizadeh, an Iranian-American teenager exploring his identity and trying to fit in. The story begins with Badi finding out that he will be transferring to Magnificat Academy from Leighton a Chicago public school due to some destructive behavior, a response to constant, post-9/11 bullying he experiences. To make matters worse, his father also legally changes his name to Bud, something “more American,” hoping that this will help him fit in with his new classmates. Bud struggles with being a normal teenager; he feels like an outcast and at times like he is invisible, a nobody. Unable to assimilate and overlook injustices like the archery club being disbanded to make more room for the football team, he takes a stand and openly expresses his opinion. For that, he is plagued with beatings and bullying. He also becomes the prime suspect for mysterious occurrences that begin happening at the school. It is up to him and his new outcast friends to clear his name and get to the bottom of the mystery.
Filled with dark and sardonic humor, Permanent Record will have you laughing out loud. Badi/Bud’s first person narration clearly depicts the depression and anxiety experienced by teens trying to find their place in the world. His keen and witty observations of other characters and situations provide a realistic backdrop for the story and mystery that unfolds. For those that loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this is a great read for you. You’ll love outcast Badi/Bud and his determination to battling injustice.