Contemporary, YA Fiction

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Synopsis (Goodreads): Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

This was a really great YA novel about what it means to have grit! The book was funny, and sweet, and all about coming into one’s identity.

Scott is a teenager who just doesn’t know what he wants to do and feels the pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately, this pressure causes him to give up quite easily – until he decides to become a “grittier” individual. I really connected a lot with Scott’s character – I know what it’s like to be lost and not know what you want to do with life. This confusion and struggle was depicted in a wonderfully humorous context that kept me interested the entire way. I wanted to know Scott would rise up to the occasion and how his encounter with Fiora would change him.

While I loved Scott’s character, Fiora was a bit too eccentric for me. I definitely understand why the author made her the way he did, and I have no problems with her being crazy and zany…. but there were times when her behaviour really confused me and just wasn’t necessary. I did love her addiction to crossword puzzles; that was a really unique feature of the story and I enjoyed reading about Fiora and Scott bonding through them. I also thought it was awesome that the author made a crossword at the end of the book for the reader to solve!

Overall, this was a really nice coming-of-age story about identity, motivation, and grit! I’m giving it a solid 4/5 stars!

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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