Book Review: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. 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 and his parents pushing him to settle on a “practical” career, Scott sneaks off to Washington, DC, seeking guidance from a famous psychologist who claims to know the secret to success.
He never expects an adventure to unfold. 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.
When Scott (given name Saaket) is left alone for a month while his parents go tend to an ailing family member in Iran, it only takes a few days for him to quit his summer internship and overhaul his life. Scott has a history of quitting things, much to the chagrin of his demanding father, who thinks he should be focused on a path to a successful career (despite Scott only being 17). His dad tells him how he recently read that the best predictor of success is grit—the ability to stick to something, focus, and follow through. After his parents leave the country, Scott becomes rather obsessed with the idea of grit and decides to head from Philadelphia to DC to meet with the professor who penned this article. He plans to stay a day or two, but ends up staying most of the month. He meets Fiora on his bus ride to DC and she immediately takes him under her wing, roping him into hijinks and spending most of Scott’s month-long stay with him. Fiora and Trent, his other new friend, help him figure out how to spend some time with the professor he came to see, and basically act as his guardian angels/instant best friends.
The overall message that grit is within us all, that failure is both inevitable and productive, is a good lesson (especially for teenagers to hear). Readers also trying to figure out their lives will relate to Scott’s quest for independence and purpose, while also being reminded that it’s okay not to have everything figured out while still just in high school. Scott’s month in DC is filled with unpredictable adventures, new friendships with a diverse group of people, and many revelations. YA readers who like books with slightly older characters (all Scott’s new friends are in college) will be drawn to this book full of charismatic and complex people.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network