Can also be read on The Social Potato
Thank you, NetGalley, and Amazon Children Publishing for sending a copy of the book in exchange for a review. I also would like to thank Leslie Stella for writing such a wonderful piece of work. I read it within 24 hours, and during that span of time, I've lost count of the numerous instances where my heart was about to burst out with so much outrage, excitement, frustration, happiness, sadness... the list of intense feelings could go on and on and on...
If that isn't clear enough, then yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. How could I not? I'm a fan of complex, thought-provoking stories. Sure, I've read dozens of simple ones with simple-minded, one-tracked characters, and I guess they're fun to read to kill time (and come on, most movies nowadays are produced in such a way that you don't have to think), but I'll always welcome a carefully woven and intricately written novel with complicated settings and interesting characters anytime. Something that could make me think, make me pause, make me put the book down not because it was bad, but because it was so good you just had to stop in order to breathe. *huff, huff, huff* OK, I'm probably exaggerating it a little bit, but that's the gist of it. In short, Permanent Record is so, frickin' good and I'll tell you why. I'm not sure if I can tell all of my feelings properly, because damn, this book was one hell of a roller coaster ride.
First, it's complex. It enters, explores and ventures into many difficult, sensitive themes that can be hard to pull off if not executed properly, such as bullying, therapy, suicide, among many others. It's even harder to incorporate all of these themes in one story alone, but the author has done it, and she did it extremely well. Of course, there were many times where I felt deeply disturbed and frustrated, where I felt a "negative experience of contrast", in which I felt what the main character was experiencing was just unfair - that he didn't deserve the things he had to go through, and that if I could just magically go inside the book, I would, just to save him from his narrow-minded parents and vile classmates. It was written in such a way that you would actually feel what Bud Hess, our main character, was feeling, and emphatize with him in all his troubles and dilemmas. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. The book does that to you and more, involving you in all of its entirety, not sparing you from the agony Bud is forced to face. This book will evoke a strong reaction from you, thanks to the realistic characterization and the wonderfully-written internal monologue. It lets us see Bud's weaknesses and vulnerabilities but we also see his transformation and his self-acceptance.
Bud. Oh, Bud. How can I ever describe a complicated, yet adorable character such as you? One cannot describe him easily, because he is a complex individual, and this particular complexity is his charm and is what makes him distinct amongst the YA heroes out there in the same genre. The reader first meets him as a confused and lost soul who experiences frequent panic attacks; a jumble mess of a boy partly thanks to his background and heritage. Since he was Iranian, he was oftentimes discriminated, bullied, and harassed by his peers. His parents has helped nothing to fix any of these issues, and the school was even worse, as they would rather instead turn the other way in matters such as these. At first, I thought his persona was inconsistent. He would insist he had a moral code to live by, and a dozen pages later, he would want to steal and stealthily sneak in. But after knowing him more through his internal monologue, I kind of understood. Throughout his life, he had the world going against him, that now, he wants to be the one going against the world. This would explain the different "campaigns", "protests", and unconventional "acts" he has done in his new school. He was encouraged by his parents to go with the flow and endure it all, because for them, what matters is that you survive. And while it was difficult, Bud went against all the norms and everything the world expected him to take mindlessly and finally stood his own ground, and surprisingly, you become proud of him for that. Yes, Bud did some things that were not acceptable by any means and you would even think he should've taken the higher ground, but he realizes his mistakes later and learns from it, and once you get to that point of that story, you'll go, "Man, what an adventure that was."
Overall, this book is a gem. It explores the human psyche through the character of Bud, and how we can make our weaknesses our strong points. It's a compelling story that evokes strong reactions from its readers, reactions that will surely stick to them for a long time. The prose, the internal monologue, the dialogues between the characters as well as the twists (I didn't see them coming, that's for sure! But they all made sense in the end), were excellently written. It will make you sad, it will make you angry, and at the end of the journey, once our character has finally found peace within himself, you'll sigh happily and say the rough, rocky road was well worth it.