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A Cloud Appears Above Your Head

A review of Leslie Stella's Permanent Record, a book about a bullied teen that Mandy will permanently remember.

A Cloud Appears Above Your Head

BOOK REPORT for Permanent Record by Leslie Stella

Cover Story: Two Truths and a Lie
BFF Charm: I'm a Little Torn
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Neurotically Beautiful
Bonus Factor: Diversity, School Newspaper
Relationship Status: Intense Crush That Got Friend-Zoned

Cover Story: Two Truths and a Lie

While this cover is still pretty obvi YA, at least it's not embarrassingly so. I'd even deem it acceptable if I considered it out of context.

Anddddd here's where I have issues with the cover. The crumpled newspaper in the shape of a bomb? DUBS TRUE! The graffiti-style title art? Um RECORD SCRATCH*. The protag is neither an aspiring Bansky nor too-cool-for-school, so it just feels out of place.

*That wasn't even planned, but I'M PUNSTOPPABLE, Y'ALL. Actually, records do play a small role in the story. If it was up to me, I'd def. put a record on the cover and be all, "Get it? GET IT??". Which is why no one in their right mind would let me design book covers.

The Deal:

Badi Hessamizadeh is getting a fresh start. Not just at Magnificat Academy, but under an entirely different name: Bud Hess. You see, Badi had to leave his old school under less- than-ideal circumstances, and his parents want him to wipe the slate COMPLETELY clean: free of his past, free of negative associations with his ethnicity -- just free of 'complications'. But tensions escalate at school anyway and pressure mounts from his academic-oriented parents, pushing Badi to his breaking point.

BFF Charm: I'm A Little Torn

(I KNOW; my first book report and I'm already breaking the rules and paraphrasing the Imbruglia.)

I was ready to give Badi a BFF charm within the first page. He's keenly aware of his neuroses and loser status, but isn't exactly wallowing in self-pity. Factor in the rambling and the overanalyzing -- TOTAL TWINSIES!

But Badi has prescription-level anxiety and he's long suffered at the hands of idiot bullies, which brings out my maternal/sisterly protective instincts. Howevs, he already has plenty of family -- and not the best relationshp with most of them -- so that's not quite right either.

And then he ends up making some choices that... I do not agree with. Not in a Sassy Gay Friend way, but more like a hand-wringing Eeyore/Jiminy Cricket worrywart. So I guess I'd be Badi's anthropomorphic Disney sidekick.

Take your pick.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Badi is instantly smitten with the cartoon-drawing, outcast-befriending Nikki (who reminds me of a better adjusted Alaska Young, thus my blatant copying of Megan's casting call), but he's definitely a Duckie. There's not a lot of swoonage, but Leslie Stella perfectly captures the total agony of being in "love".

Talky Talk: Neurotically Beautiful

Leslie Stella does such a great job of conveying what I'd imagine having anxiety would be like. She also gives Badi a vivid and honest voice that seamlessly finds insight, even in mundane office supplies.

I pocket some peppermint candies. Stamps, a small Maglite flashlight, a ministapler -- I always wanted one of those.

[...]

I open and close the ministapler a bunch of times. It chatters like teeth. When you have stuff taken from you routinely -- your name, your physical safety, your last scrap of self-esteem -- even the smallest things feel like restitution. For a while anyway.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

So I've kind of buried the lede with this one, 'cause being Iranian isn't really a big deal in Badi's day-to-day (other than during meals, which weren't prominently featured but still put my ereader at risk of water damage on account of ALL THE SALIVATING).

ANYWAY. It's not a big deal until the d-bags of the world decide that it's a big deal. And Stella's depictions of racism towards Badi are double heartbreaking, since probably a lot worst has been (and is being) said and done to upstanding, law-abiding people who just happen to be of Middle Eastern descent.

Bonus Factor: School Newspaper

My high school paper was pretty forgettable*, just like the Vox Populi under the tutelage of Ms. Viola. But then Badi joins the paper, upsetting the status quo with his opinion pieces. Unfortunately, Badi's arrival coincides with a series of like-minded anonymous open letters, making him the target of everyone's suspicion.

*Save for this ode-to-women poem. Nice idea in theory, but in execution called ladyparts INCUBATORS OF LIFE.

Casting Call:

Ahmad Khan Mahmizada as Badi/Bud

So I had a pretty clear idea of what Badi looked like, but then he gets compared to Shia LaBeouf, which kind of ruins it (and also to Kal Penn, which kind of confuses it. But I think that was the intent. Like, "HEY they don't all look alike, a-holes!").

Anyway, I wanted to cast the boy who played Hassan in The Kite Runner, but 1) he's Afghan, not Iranian, 2) there are no recent photos of him, and 3) I had to go cry after thinking about The Kite Runner.

This shizz is HARD, y'all. Esp. since a Google Image Search of "Persian actor" is polluted with Jake Gyllenhaal. So unless someone has a better suggestion, please extrapolate to age 16 with curly hair.

Dakota Fanning as Nikki

Alfie Enoch as Reggie

I haven't mentioned him yet, but Reggie is the tall and totally awesome chess champ rock star that rounds out Badi and Nikki's merry crew at Magnificat. So this was a no-brainer.

Sigourney Weaver as Ms. Viola

Relationship Status: Intense Crush That Got Friend-Zoned

Book, when I first met you, I crushed on you HARD. I'm talking elaborate daydreams and doodling your name in my notebook. But the more I got to know you, the more I realized that we're not really meant to be. I'll always think fondly of a book as upfront and honest as you are, but we're better off as friends (that you invite to your mom's for dinner? PLEASE?!).

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Leslie Stella. I received neither money nor froyo for this review (dammit!). Permanent Record is available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.