by Leslie Stella
Inspiration for the novel:
I was inspired by several related concepts when I began to write Permanent Record. The escalating amount of school violence in our country, especially since Columbine, is horrifying. You see the faces of these killers all over the news with little to explain how they got there. I couldn’t stop thinking about it: How did they get to that point? Bullying, mental illness, lack of love, lack of family? I wanted to explore several themes that don’t fit neatly into talk-show soundbites or the ticker on news programs: 1) Bullying, and the fine line between standing up for yourself and taking revenge, 2) the cyclical effect of bullying and school violence, and how they feed off each other, and 3) the perpetrators themselves, and the idea that someone who fires back at those who have hurt him may not in fact be a monster, but a wounded human being.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Life was easier when I connected with no one. Easier, but empty. Now I’m wildly caught up in other people’s lives and my own feelings, and it’s crazy and intense and it’s scary as hell, too—to be so human, so alive.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
The section break in chapter 20, after the anonymous note is found in the school lockers, threatening violence on Halloween. At this point the three main characters suspect each other and, I hope, the reader begins to distrust the unreliable narrative of Badi.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Nikki Vrdolyak. She is a strong young woman, but capable of great kindness and empathy. She is true to herself and not swayed by popular opinion in a way that is unusual for most teenagers—for most people, period. She is ignored in her own family, she is called “lesbo” at school simply because she doesn’t buy into traditional gender roles, she stands up for Badi when she sees him being attacked, and she speaks her mind, consequences be damned. I think she is a great role model for girls. Definitely the kind of girl I wish I’d been more like as a teen.
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Badi’s brother Dariush was in a band and wrote a song about his experiences working in a car wash. The lyrics are my favorite passage in the book because they’re funny but also because they express Dariush’s frustration with entering the workforce with a brain and an education and no ambition whatsoever.
I walk through the valley of the car wash of death
I’ll punch the clock till my last dying breath
A dark-skinned stranger with an engineering degree
Wipes down your car, his diploma is a chamois
Use the pre-soak to loosen crap from the road
I aim the foam brush like a gun and reload
Now get the soap off, rinse and repeat
Spray wax like bullets till I’m dead on my feet.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
After Badi’s disastrous first morning at his new high school, a classmate lifts his hand to him in the hallway. Badi admits, “I try high-five him, but miss.” Haven’t we all felt like that? It’s so indicative of Badi’s personality: trying, trying, always trying, but always falling short, at least in his own estimation. A small thing, maybe, but the small things add up.
Leslie Stella is the author of three previous novels of contemporary adult fiction, Unimaginable Zero Summer (Crown, 2005); The Easy Hour (Crown, 2003); and Fat Bald Jeff (Grove/Atlantic, 2001). She was a founding editor of the Chicago-based politics and satire magazine Lumpen, and her work has been published in The Mississippi Review, The Adirondack Review, Bust, Easy Listener, and anthologized in The Book of Zines: Readings from the Fringe (Henry Holt, 1997; compiled by Playboy editor Chip Rowe), a collection of essays and articles from the obsessive, frequently bizarre world of zines. Leslie was nominated for a 2004 Pushcart Prize in short fiction, and Permanent Record is her first novel for young adults.
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Permanent Record is available in hardcover or for Kindle at:
Permanent Record was published in March 2013 by Amazon Children’s Publishing/Skyscape. My agent had originally sold it in 2011 to Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishing, but soon after they were acquired by Amazon Children’s, and forthcoming titles like mine as well as the entire backlist went along too. Please visit my website for impending information about my next novel!