“I’m just Bud Hess, transfer student, underachiever, nobody.”
Badi Hessamizadeh is clinically depressed, on the rebound from a suicide attempt and subject both to crippling panic attacks and fits of rage after years of ethnic bullying. Now, he’s trying for a fresh start with a new name (arbitrarily changed by his well-intentioned but overbearing father) and a new high school, Magnificat Academy. It’s not to be, as (in overt homage to a certain YA classic) he refuses to sell chocolate bars and so not only earns a restroom beating, but becomes a target of widespread suspicion when, coupled with rumors of his past, anonymous threatening letters begin to appear in the school paper. Playing out her crossover as a dark comedy, adult author Stella (Unimaginable Zero Summer, 2005) further stacks the deck by giving her Iranian-American protagonist a penchant for making lists of enemies, constructing small explosive devices and other provocative acts. She also outfits him with new friends who stubbornly like him despite both his issues and a preference for pranks that annoy the cast’s largely clueless adults but put only him at risk.
Despite characters exaggerated to the point of caricature, an edgy, discomfiting attack on post-9/11 nerves and prejudices. (Fiction. 14-18)