There are no spoilers in this review.
In the long, endless list of my anticipated books of 2018, Arvin Ahmadi’s debut sat there for a while. Intrigued by the story that seemed like the perfect coming of age I always love reading, by the characters and, let’s face it, really wanting that lovely cover on my shelves, I’ve been eagerly waiting to read that book and… as I predicted, it was kind of a hit, for me.
A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY
In this story, we follow Scott (or Saaket, his real Iranian name, Scott being his “American” name) as he tries to find his own passion. One thing that he will be able to finally follow through. In a world where’s he incapable of committing to anything, to his parents’ dismay, Scott really wants to do his best to finally find his thing. This trail of thought leads him to Washington D.C and to Professor Mallard’s office, a university researcher specialized in something called “grit”. From here starts an incredible journey of self-discovery for our main character, a journey that will have you smiling and rooting for this main character from page one.
SCOTT : A RELATABLE MAIN CHARACTER YOU WILL FALL IN LOVE WITH
Here’s the thing: Scott is a highly relatable main character and it was so easy to root for him. Scott is me, or was, I’m not even sure, Scott is everyone at some point in their lives, as they’re trying to find their own “grit” and whatever it is they’re supposed to do. It’s not an easy question to ask ourselves and it’s ever harder to find any kind of answer. Following Scott through this journey was incredibly real. Everything he thought and felt was relatable on some level and his way of reacting to any kind of situation, or new relationship was realistic. Somehow, Arvin Ahmadi just got what it’s like to be someone that doesn’t quite know what to do with the rest of his life and put it all over the pages of this book and hat’s off for that lovely performance.
Scott, or Saaket, was surrounded by an incredible cast of secondary characters. There’s Fiora, the one you might feel like a manic pixie dream girl cliché from the first pages, from that mysterious aura she gets and Scott’s growing obsession with her. By the end of the book, I didn’t have that image of her too much anymore. She slowly grew in between the pages, developed and with each new layer of her personality, her family life, her own insecurities and mental health issues, appeared a new Fiora, three-dimensional and human. Trent was also another character I loved getting to know better. Each of them had their own passions, their own goals, from crossword puzzles to getting into politics and each of them brought something new to the page and to Scott’s life.
A GREAT AND DIVERSE CAST OF CHARACTERS
I also have to mention that I was thrilled about the diverse cast in this book. Our main character Scott, or Saaket, is an Iranian American. Even if I can’t speak about the accuracy of the representation here on a personal level, I appreciated seeing a glimpse of the language, the culture, the parents-children relationships in this story related to these origins. Trent is gay and another thing I loved is how this book mentioned politics and showed different political views within the characters, as well as tackled issues with religion, racism. Basically, this book was 200% accurate and real when it comes to characters, their relationships and everything that might come in between and shape them as a person. I loved that.
I got lucky enough to visit Washington D.C a couple years ago and Arvin Ahmadi got all the vibes right, from the places, the streets, Dupont Circle and everything in-between. I loved this setting as well and will admit that it made me a bit nostalgic for it all.
Down and Across was a great coming of age story I’d recommend to everyone, really. Charming, witty and really fun to read, this is also a journey about trying to find yourself and why it’s okay if it takes time. If it’s a work in progress, because after all, we are never entirely finished here. Arvin Ahmadi is definitely a new voice in the YA industry that I will follow for a while because, if that’s his debut, then the rest of the stories he has to tell promises to be really, really good.
I spent the night on Fiora’s couch and dozed off thinking about the universe. How it’s indefinitely incomplete – like us. How the best ideas, events, people and lives don’t need to wrap up nicely to mean something.
Final rating: 4 drops!
A million thanks to Penguin Random House International for the review copy of this book. This did not, in any way, influence my thoughts and rating.
Arvin Ahmadi, Down and Across, Published by Viking Books for Young Readers, February 6th, 2018.
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.
Did you read Down and Across? Do you want to?
Do you usually like coming-of-age stories? What are some of the latest characters you could really relate to? Let me know in comments!