by Dave Amaditz &
Welcome to September's version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Leslie Stella, and her novel, Permanent Record. There's so much good to say about this novel. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the excerpts we've chosen below, follow the links we've included to read what others are saying, and ultimately, check out the book for yourself.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – In this scene Badi, a.k.a. Bud (you need to read for yourself why the names are different) has given up trying to fit in, trying to be normal. This passage gives you a little insight as to the reason why, but you will need to read the book for yourself to see what is the result of the decision.
The real reason I can't talk to Nikki is because I've moved off the path to sanity and fitting in - even with the misfits - and where I'm headed now, she can't follow. I love her and that hurts. Even Reggie, the type of guy I've always admired - cool-geek, comfortable with himself, smart, antiauthority - I can't be friends with him anymore because I'm giving up on trying to get better. There are all those people who stand in my way, who haunt me, dog my heels, from Leighton to Magnificat. The shit just never ends. I'm giving in to being who I am now.
Marcy – The main character, Badi (also known as Bud) has never had any real friends. He goes to this new school and faces one disaster after another. But through all of the disasters, he makes a few friends along the way. But then he questions if these people really are his friends. He doesn’t feel he deserves to have friends. This is the point in the story for me that was pivotal. One of his good friends Nikki tells him exactly how she feels, and he finally starts to realize that he does have people who care about him.
I cross my arms. I knew it would come to this. “You’re against me,” I say.
“Against you? Dude, I am against you back-to-back, surrounded by infidels,” she says. “I am for you. I want you to succeed and be happy, even though being happy seems completely unrealistic for people like you and me. I’m getting concerned here. Scared. I’m afraid something bad is going to happen to you. It’s making me not see things clearly, and I’m sorry.”
The meeting is due to start, so I go in and leave her behind. I hate to do it.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave – There were a few chapter endings that I really liked, the end of chapter 1, chapter 15 and 16, as they all really made me think, really brought me closer to the main character, made me want to read more. In the end though, I chose this one. To help you understand the scene, you need to know that King Sargon is his cat and that "Car Wash of Death" is a song his brother made up about wasting away working at a car wash.
King Sargon sits on my desk and looks out my bedroom window. I close the door and play "Car Wash of Death" ten million times on Dariush's turntable, lying on my bed, staring up at the darkening ceiling and picking at my mole. I don't fall asleep though I'm beyond tired, and I can't eat - not that anyone calls me for dinner and I can smell that it's orange chicken koresh again, my favorite - but my stomach is blocked by a trapdoor that closes whenever the depression hits. And it is hitting hard. The only thing that gets me through is the thought of what I will do to that school on Saturday night.
Marcy – This happens toward the end of the story. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I won't give specific details. Bud struggles with mental illness. Throughout the story, he tends to bottle up his feelings and thoughts, but toward the end, he finally makes a big transformation and begins to see life differently. He makes a tough decision and a plea for help:
God help me out of this don’t leave me alone abandon me alienate me hate me destroy me – floor rushes up to me – my little brother and sister are crying, everyone’s crying but me. I can’t cry because I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe because everything inside me shuts down.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – Dariush, Badi's (Bud's) brother, is my favorite secondary character. He so confident and comfortable with himself, even though he, like Badi (Bud) is a total disappointment in the eyes of his parents. Also, he's not opposed to telling it like it is. Following, is an example.
He stretches and gets up. "The thing you have to understand about people," he says, "is that most of them suck, and you don't want to be like them anyway. Just get through high school. I won't lie: people suck after high school, too. But you'll be older then and will have given up, so it won't be as devastating."
Marcy – I was honestly torn between Dariush, Bud’s brother and Nikki. I ended up choosing Nikki, but was happy to see that Dave chose Dariush.
Nikki is one of the few characters that not only accepts Bud for himself, but also accepts others regardless of their problems. She’s not scared off by Bud’s crazy stories or his problems like most people. She is the one person (other than his brother) that he feels comfortable enough to allow inside his world.
Nikki’s bus is coming. She says, “I want to know it all. One day. When you want to tell me everything.”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – I had a list of about fifteen passages to choose from after I read through the book, but in the end decided this passage was my favorite because it showed Badi's (Bud's) humanity (and I almost used this section for my favorite character growth) and the fact that he is not, as he says himself, a total monster. I also picked it because the scene is so visual, yet still evokes so much emotion.
I see the douche bag Trevor. He came with this girl from the newspaper staff, and he pulls her chair out for her and then gets her a cup of lemonade, and she takes it without looking at him and sets it on the table, and then takes out her phone and plays around with it. And he sits there with this miserable expression on his face, and he fixes his tie and leans in to say stuff to her every so often, and she is not into him, and it's the kind of thing that happens a million times a day, but when you see it happening to someone in front of you, even someone as revolting as Trevor, you would have to be an absolute monster not to feel some vestige of sympathy.
Dylan and his buddies and their dates pass by, and with them is Dylan's little sister, the freshman he pointed out to me on my first day. She has very bad skin and is not pretty - I'm sorry to say it and I'm not judging, but there it is; and she's apparently dateless and tagging along with them - probably their mother made her go because Dylan is Mr. Popularity - and he has his hand lightly on her shoulder when she says something to him, and her whole face is a study in misery, and he replies and pats her back, like, human, and his sister's posture, hunched and defeated, embodies the last fourteen months of my life, when things begin to misfire in my brain and the whole universe decided it was out to get me.
(The scene goes on with more astute observations, but I ended it early in an effort not to give away too much of the plot. So please, read for yourself to see what happens).
Marcy – I love the descriptions in this paragraph! I have a crystal clear snapshot of the images that Bud describes – so vivid. And this scene also gives us a look through Bud’s eyes about Nikki.
Being that I ride public transportation every day, I see my fair share of crazy, and sometimes it’s not pretty. Like the lady who brings the baby carriage on the Western Avenue bus, but it’s holding Duraflame logs and bottles of orange pop, not a baby. And there’s always a guy peeing on himself. Always. It’s like a rule. Homeless people who yell at the bus driver; homeless people who are trying really hard not to seem like homeless people, but they are dragging kids with them and taking suitcases onto the bus and their money is always carried in some complicated contraption tied to their belts. That’s how I know Nikki is a decent human and not just a rich girl who lives in a nice house in the city: she takes crazy in stride. You could just get up and move away from the crazy people, but she stays put.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave – This quote comes from Nikki, Badi's (Bud's) friend. She's supposed to be a misfit, too. I love how this line makes you think, or rethink what, and whom, are normal.
"Look, I told them I was covering the bonfire for the paper, Bud. I didn't know it was going to be this big thing with you. They like to take the twins out for wholesome family fun on Saturday nights. I think they're at the shooting range."
Marcy – Another laugh-out-loud line!
You know your family’s got problems when the hippies with the stoned dog are worried about you.
You can find Leslie at:
Permanent Record is available in hardcover or for Kindle at: