This book follows a few months in the life of Badi Hessamizadeh, a sixteen-year-old Iranian-American growing up in Chicago. Badi doesn't have it easy -- he has controlling parents, he suffers from depression and anxiety, and he gets bullied daily. He's forced by his parents to transfer schools (and change his name to Bud) for a fresh start for junior year, but things don't go as well at his new school as planned. He is blamed for writing threatening letters to the school newspaper, and he and his new friends seek to clear his name.
(I'm going to refer to the main character as Badi/Bud for the rest of this review, because I feel like his name holds a lot of significance throughout the story and it feels wrong somehow to refer to him as just one or the other.)
This book was so refreshing compared to most YA books I've read that deal with bullying and mental illness. Mental illness was tackled in a way that wasn't cliche, and it didn't portray Badi/Bud as "crazy." You really got to get into Badi/Bud's head and understand his struggles and see what it's really like to suffer from anxiety and depression. I felt that they were realistically portrayed and were not shown in a negative light, which was fantastic to see. The bullying aspect of the book was also written out very well. Badi/Bud was psychically and mentally harassed on a daily basis. Some incidents were described in great detail, and you could really feel for him. Seriously, he went through some ish. I was really rooting for him, and at the end of the book I was very happy with how he had learned and grown from his horrible experiences.
The diversity among the characters was also refreshingly different. Badi/Bud and his family are Iranian-American, and one of his best friends is African-American. It was nice to picture a different type of character in my head instead of the typical handsome/pretty white kid that seems to be the main character of nearly every YA novel. It made the characters and the story as a whole seem so much more realistic. Almost every character in the story had depth to them. I didn't feel like any characters were flat or cliched. I also liked getting to learn a little bit about Iranian culture, words and phrases, and foods in the parts of the book involving his family.
The book was well-written and kept me interested the whole way through. I got so many feelings reading this - happiness, sadness, anxiety, excitement. I think adults that enjoy YA would like this book, but I'd really recommend it to teens still in school. I think they could either relate to Badi/Bud and his experiences or they could learn what it's like to be the outcast and the effects bullying can have.