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.
5 Reasons Why You Should Read Down and Across
Hello y’all! Long time no see!
Okay, here’s the thing: I wrote an entirely different review so many months ago when I first read this, but I wanted to try to do an entirely new one. I actually enjoyed doing this new one. SOOOOO… here’s five things I loved about this book, and hopefully five reasons to convince you to pick it up too!
1. Down and Across is so dang relatable!
Even though we have different backgrounds and we are on entirely different stages of our lives, I found Scott’s story so relatable it hurts, jk (not really).
This book perfectly captures the apprehensions we had growing up like that debilitating fear of choosing the path to your future, e.g. choosing colleges or fields of study or choosing a job. There is also that lingering concern of choosing wrong, screwing yourself in the process, and never being able to take it back. On top of your internal struggles, there are external (parents, relatives, society) forces that heightens the pressure you already feel.
Scott’s struggles made the book feel so real to me, and I loved that for it.
2. This book has a hopeful message and is very encouraging.
It feels very gratifying that it started with an unmotivated and confused Scott, but it ended with him having the adventure of a lifetime filled with so much self-discovery and grit, as well as acquiring an internship which he actually loved doing!
Also, this book includes one of my favorite quotes in all the books I’ve read last year: “Failure is inevitable. Productive, even”. I want to believe in my heart of hearts that this quote is true for my own sanity. (insert nervous laughter) I guess we might not know where we’re headed yet, but I believe that even with all the missteps we take, we’ll get there.
3. Down and Across scores A+ on diversity!
Another thing to love are the characters in this book. They come from all walks of life.
First, we have Scott a high school student with overprotective immigrant parents from Iran. We have Trent, an aspiring politician coming from a well-off family from the South. He was disowned because he was gay. Then there’s Fiora who absolutely loves creating and solving crossword puzzles, coincidentally she’s Trent’s BFF. She appears quirky and eccentric, but her parents actually went through a divorce, and she’s struggling with accepting her mother’s new family. We also have Jeannette, a college student raised in a conservative household, who seemed like a nice girl, but it turns out she had extremely bigoted beliefs.
It was interesting and very enjoyable to see how this group of people with differing beliefs, sexuality, race and religion, mesh and interact with each other through fun and not-so-fun times.
4. This book is really funny, I can’t even.
There is just something about Scott’s father mentioning this renowned professor’s research about grit and Scott going all the way to DC to find her and getting an internship with her that I find so funny. It feels so sarcastic and meta.
Aside from all the crazy antics, the bike chase, the bar where you can play all day, and crossword clubs with intense but delightful members, this book has so much more facets that made it so entertaining to me.
5. Down and Across is surprisingly very endearing.
My favorite part of the book was his first email to Professor Mallard. It might’ve been one of the sweetest thing I’ve ever read in my life. I literally felt something akin to heartburn, but I swear that was me being so touched by that letter. Look out for that! Also, can we speak about the last two chapters and my feelings? It was so good and endearing?!! Watch out for that too!
Bonus: The Crossword theme is so beautifully integrated in the book!
Overall, it’s quick to read and enjoyable, it’s a solid debut novel. I’ll definitely be looking forward to Arvin Ahmadi’s future works.