cover image Permanent Record

Permanent Record

Leslie Stella. Amazon Children's Publishing, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4778-1639-4

Adult fiction writer Stella's first YA novel smartly tackles ethnic and social prejudice while introducing a remarkably strong underdog: 16-year-old Iranian-American Badi Hessamizadeh. Following Badi's destructive behavior at a public school (a result of being targeted by bullies post-9/11), Badi's father transfers him to Magnificat Academy and changes his name to Bud Hess, in hopes that he will clean up his act. Badi's depression, anxiety, anger, and compulsions make fitting in a challenge, though he does befriend two fellow outsiders, Nikki and Reggie. When Badi refuses to participate in the school's chocolate bar sale (he sees it as "forced labor"), and anonymous, antagonistic letters start appearing in the student newspaper, he is assumed to be the culprit and again becomes the victim of bullying. Readers will be absorbed by the mystery of the letter writer, as well as the tension surrounding acts of sabotage leading up to homecoming, but it's Badi's sardonic narrative that makes the novel crackle. Behind his nervous distrust of the world is a burgeoning resilience, depth of character, and commitment to battling injustice. Ages 14 – up. Agent: Lucy Child, Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency. (Mar.)