Arvin Ahmadi’s debut novel sends the reader on an adventure going up, DOWN AND ACROSS.
Saaket (better known as Scott) Ferdowsi is drifting. His parents want him to focus, sink his teeth into something meaningful. College is, after all, quickly approaching. But Scott doesn’t know what his true passion is, and that only adds to the pressure. Sure, he’s given a few (okay, many) activities a shot–like playing an instrument and taking on a summer internship–but nothing sticks. Scott doesn’t have the “grit” (the motivation and determination) to stay on a path and see it to its end.
Scott becomes so overwhelmed by his parents’ pushing that he goes online to find the psychology professor his father can’t stop talking about, Professor Mallard. In a short time, Scott ends up obsessed with her definition of “grit.” Since his parents are going to Iran for a month, Scott plans a secret trip to Washington D.C. to meet Professor Mallard so she can help him find his grit.
Turns out the adventure of going to a new city and meeting new people is just what the doctor ordered. After finding Fiora, an unpredictable, exciting cruciverbalist (that is, one who is a master at creating and solving crossword puzzles) and (coincidentally) her friend Trent, an unbelievably kind bartender-want-to-be-congressman, Scott is exposed to different experiences and outlooks.
I must first give kudos to Ahmadi for successfully writing a contemporary young adult novel that has a primary setting other than a school and plot lines that don’t constantly revolve around a boy-meets-girl romance. I was also drawn to the adventure aspect of Down and Across. I enjoyed living vicariously through Scott as he explored Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, Ahmadi’s writing style included a lot of humor that ended up falling flat for me. It felt forced to fit a stereotypical teenage mindset, which took away much of its spark. I also hoped Scott’s journey would build and expand, but beyond the first 100 pages, that initial thrill deflated. Without mentioning spoilers, I was, however, quite impressed by the ending’s overall outcome. It’s not what I expected, and I was pleased with the surprise.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS
Down and Across is available February 6th, but you can pre-order now via Amazon.
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.