Title: Down and Across
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 336 pages
My Rating: 4 Stars
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.
Scott has a hard time with sticking to his decisions. He starts things, such as his internship, but doesn’t see those things through to the end. When his parents leave to go to Iran to look after his ill grandfather, Scott decides that instead of going to his internship, he’s going to find Cecily Mallard, the great psychology professor who specialized on grit, the psychology of success. There, he meets Fiora, crossword enthusiast, and Trent, political aspirant. These two help him in his journey towards getting grittier, as well as getting more experiences in life in general.
Down and Across was blurbed by some of my favorite authors – Jasmine Warga and Adam Silvera – so I had high hopes from this one. I’m glad to say that despite the high standards I’ve set on this book before even reading it, that it did not disappoint. Not by one bit.
I connected with Scott so much because I related to him in so many ways. Born of Chinese immigrant parents, my parents are also strict and want me to focus on studies. They often forbid me to go out by myself, and growing up, I felt like I was missing so much because of it. I also felt street-stupid (the opposite of street-smart? Haha!) because of staying at home so much. In the last two years of high school, much like Scott, I had no direction in life. I didn’t know what I wanted to take up after high school, while most of my friends already knew where they were headed. Because of these factors, I became all the more invested in Scott’s story – how he would learn and redeem himself throughout the 300 or so pages of the book.
This book showed me that self-discovery and growth happens at all ages, and with people from all walks of life, may they be students or professionals. One of my favorite scenes in this novel was how Professor Mallard broke down, and how Scott actually motivated her once more after her father’s death. It showed that even one breaks down at times, but it’s in how we pick ourselves up once more that shows true grit. This book also showed me that with the right push, people can get on their way once more and find themselves.
The journey, growth, and self-discovery of Scott in this novel made him into a very dynamic character that grew to be one filled with potential. He learned so many things throughout this novel, and I’m so proud of him because he learned all these by experiencing various ups and downs in the novel. I’m so proud of him for finally figuring his life out, and for standing up to his beliefs. Most of all, I love this novel because it made Scott feel like a real person I know, so much so that I feel nothing but pride for him.
Down and Across surprised me with how much I liked it, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to read it! It’s this amazing story that I’m sure people of all ages could relate to, because everyone gets lost from time to time, right?