Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Down and Across

Arvin Ahmadi

Down and Across is a thrilling game-changer that touches on the universal journey of self-discovery with a deft hand and riotous humor.” —Adam Silvera, New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not

Start Reading….

Read Excerpt Now


Sign me up to receive news about Arvin Ahmadi.

Place our blog button on your blog to let people know you are a member of this great program!

"John Green fans will appreciate this tale."USA Today
"[A] humorous, deeply human coming-of-age story." The Washington Post

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I enjoyed this coming of age story. I found the MC’s adventures in DC to be interesting. I was a little surprised that a relatively sheltered 17 y/o young man, with limited life experience, was able to survive in DC for several weeks with few issues. I was also surprised how well things seemed to work out for him during that time. I was interested in seeing how the story progressed, but it wasn’t a compelling read for me. I never had the feeling of “I just HAVE to see what’s going to happen next.”

Ah, well. I had hoped to enjoy this one more, and while it is an interesting story, sadly I didn't love it.

I really liked this book. Everything about it intrigued me -- the puzzles, Scott's rebellious adventure, and the various linked back stories. I agree with another reviewer that the Crusaders were the best part of the book (they cracked me up), but I don't agree with the reviewer that they were the only good part of the book. I think this book is worth the read.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Penguin's First to Read program for the review copy! Have you ever gone to see a movie because the trailer for it was super epic, only to be disappointed because said trailer ended up being better than the actual movie? That’s kind of the experience I had with Down and Across. It’s a decent book, but its synopsis is so amazing, and promises such fun hijinks, that the actual story fails to do it justice and is it bit of a letdown. Scott, the book’s protagonist, does run off to Washington, D.C. to seek purpose and direction, but I wouldn’t say the ensuing events qualify as an adventure. The plot basically consists of Scott wandering around D.C. and killing time with a random girl – Fiora – he met on the bus, while trying to figure out what the heck to do with his life. I wouldn’t call it exciting or even all that interesting. He does get into a chase on a borrowed bicycle, but it only lasts for a page or two and is pretty anticlimactic. Likewise, the whole “sneaking into bars” and “attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo” parts are pretty low-key. Essentially, my main complaint about Down and Across is that it left me wanting more, and not in a good way. There’s a lot that’s touched on – a grit research project Scott undertakes, the backstory of a grieving college professor, Fiora’s family issues – that is never fully delved into or developed to its full potential. Ahmadi scratches the surface but doesn't go much deeper than that. Parts of the story are fun and unique, but the book doesn’t linger on them long enough to leave a lasting impression. For example, Fiora is a cruciverbalist – someone who enjoys writing and solving crossword puzzles – and is part of a crossword club called the Crusaders. The Crusaders’ membership is primarily made up of incredibly intelligent, slightly zany older men who are a ton of fun, and I loved the brief scene in which they feature. I wanted more of them, but alas, they were there for a just a few pages and that was it. I was also a little frustrated to find that Fiora was your typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which has never been a favorite archetype of mine. The only thing that set her apart from other MPDG’s I’ve read about was her interest in crossword puzzles, which was far and away the coolest part of Down and Across. I’m a huge crossword fan myself, and it was fascinating to learn the rudiments of how puzzles are created and how themes tie into the puzzles. Puzzle factor aside, I just wasn’t that into Down and Across. Ahmadi has a good sense of humor, and I’ll be interested to see how his talents continue to evolve over the course of his writing career, but his debut novel just didn’t do it for me.

Great YA book! I really enjoyed the character dynamics and the storyline. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Down and Across is an excellent YA book. I can't believe this is a debut author. I received an advanced copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program. Scott a high school student who is trying to find his identity and worth in life, much like many other students his age. It is a little different for Scott, however, in that he is an Iranian American, which subjects him to cultural differences and prejudices. He is also feeling pressure from his parents. Scott and his friends were very well-developed and endearing to the reader. I would highly recommend this book for ages 14 and up.

Scott Ferdowski (his real name is Saaket, but he goes by Scott) is trying to enjoy the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. But it's tough. His two best friends were chosen to travel in Asia, leaving him alone in Philadelphia. He doesn't have a girlfriend. And his father has been insisting he complete an internship in a science lab at a nearby college. With increasing pressure to pick a career path (preferably a lucrative one, according to his parents), Scott is growing increasingly unhappy with his current situation.  But a quick trip to Washington D.C. changes everything.  An online quiz on grit makes Scott feel like he doesn't have enough grit to face his future head on, so he decides that he should go to D.C. and meet the Georgetown professor who is writing the book on grit, literally, to get some advice.  A two-day trip to the nation's capital turns into several weeks away from home, new friends, a different type of summer internship, a crazy cruciverbalist (that's a crossword puzzle builder if you're like me and didn't recognize the word right away), some imaginative thinking to earn money, a stolen bike, a date at the zoo, and a black tie dinner with Congressmen and diplomats.  Coming of age has never been grittier than in this new novel from Arvin Ahmadi. Down and Across is a charming reminder of everything that you loved and hated about being a teenager. With plenty of angst and way too much relationship drama, it's a winning look at how we grow up and how much we have to go through to become real people. Scott's journey may not be exactly like how you remember yours, or how you're currently building your journey to adulthood, but the emotions and worries and guilt and fear are universal.  I really enjoyed Down and Across. As a crossword lover and one-time aspiring cruciverbalist, I wish there had been more puzzles in the story, but I loved how Ahmadi used the crosswords as a metaphor for growing up and finding your own voice. Scott's story is funny and interesting and a little cringe-worthy, as all the best coming of age stories are. Not to be missed! Galleys for Down and Across were provided by Penguin Random House through, with many thanks.

Down and Across is a cute, coming of age novel about a 17-year-old son of immigrant parents. I always enjoy young adult novels told from male point of view, and this didn't disappoint. Scott is a soon to be senior in high school who feels like he is the only one of his friends who doesn't know what they want to do with their lives. When his parents leave him alone for a few weeks during the summer, he goes on a journey of self-discovery and exploration. While I didn't always agree with the decisions the main character was making, I found him likable and I was rooting for him throughout.

I liked it for the most part. I learned a lot about crossword puzzles that I probably wouldn't otherwise. I personally didn't like the character Fiora. She felt a little bit like a manic pixie dream girl even though she had flaws. This is also one of those books that make you want to shake the kid and say, "Call your parents!". I am also not a teenager so that is most likely the reason.

A fun story about a boy trying to find his purpose and discover what it means to have true grit. This journey leads him to Washington, DC and crosses his path with a wild girl who pushes him out of his comfort zone. I really enjoyed this story so much! A new YA favorite.

Honestly, this book is amazing. I felt like every single word about this book is so well chosen and every scenario plays a grand roll is Scott's story. Sometimes I couldn't even do my basics, because the story was just so hypnotised by the words. I even allowed myself to feel identified by the fact that Scott just wanted to find what he really wants to do with his life. And the way the author develops de downs and acrosses of each characters life, coughed me by surprise. In summary, I really enjoyed the book; I think is a book worth recalling again.

I received an ARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. I LOVED this book! I didn't want to put it down and read about a third of it the first time I picked it up. Sometimes, I forgot how young Scott was supposed to be. He's not even a senior in high school and he's so stressed about his future that he runs away to meet with a college professor. It's a little far fetched, but the story still caught my attention. It was quick paced and kept me engaged. The characters were quirky. I like that each of them was more complicated than first introductions would lead you to believe. I actually cared about the characters and wanted to know what happened to them. Scott meets an interesting group of people and has such exciting experiences on his one month adventure. The book also made me curious about Washington DC besides the history aspects. Makes me want to take a trip there myself now, especially to visit Thomas Foolery.

Summary: Scott Ferdowsi is amazing at quitting- the tar, the great American novel…. just about every school club.  This summer, he has an internship that goes the way of the tar.  Something has clicked- Grit.  His dad talked about it before his parents left for Iran.  Is this really the key to success?  Where can he get some?  His friends have their futures mapped out- they have goals and plans.  Him… nada.  What’s a guy to do?  Run away of coarse! There’s a professor in DC that specializes in Grit.  Who better to teach him the basics?  His first real adventure kicks off meeting a beautiful stranger on the bus.  Ballsy and gorgeous Fiora Buchanan, crossword puzzle creator extraordinaire.  What was meant to be a one day trip snowballs into the craziest few weeks of his life.  Political bartenders, picking up chicks at the zoo, and learning the true meaning of not giving up. My thoughts: I loved this book.  It was fast paced and entertaining with great characters.  I felt for Scott even when I wanted to strangle him- let’s face it, some of the stuff he did was pretty dumb.  But that’s growing up right?  All his life his parents have been over protective, and his father has pushed for him to go into high profile, high paid jobs.  There’s a lot of stress there for a young man with zero clue what he really wants out of life.  All he knows is that he wants to know.  He wants to be passionate about something, so move forward.  That in and of itself interested me; the way he went about trying to find his passion- his grit. I will admit that the ending made me just a bit crazy.  It was too clean.  Just too easy, you know?  I felt a tiny bit let down.  For me this was a four and a half star book.  I loved it, but it wasn’t stellar.   On the adult content scale, there’s some language and alcohol.  It’s nothing major and I would let my niece read this one (actually, I am probably buying her this one).  I would give it a three.   I was lucky enough to get an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks.

4.5 Stars. As a longtime crossword geek, I was instantly sold on reading Down and Across because of the title alone. Fellow cruciverbalists will find plenty to love about this novel, starting with the assurance that the title isn’t a mere passing reference. Crossword puzzles figure prominently throughout the book, which even namechecks New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz. That alone won this book a special place in my heart. The plot of Down and Across centers around Scott Ferdowsi’s search for direction. He’s never been good at sticking with anything, and with high school graduation on the horizon, he doesn’t know where his future lies. Scott’s parents want him to go into medicine or engineering, but he knows these fields just aren’t for him. I could absolutely relate to Scott’s struggle to figure out what he wants to do in life; in fact, I can still relate, even as someone who’s still trying to work out this whole adulting thing. Scott’s narrative voice was easily my favorite aspect of the novel. He’s funny, snarky, self-deprecating, and most importantly, engaging. He’s the type of guy who you just want to see catch a break for once. Scott gets knocked down a few times in Down and Across, sometimes literally, but he never wallows in self-pity. He’s a finely crafted character, as is Fiora, the college student he meets on the bus to Washington, D.C., where she attends George Washington University. Fiora is a crossword fiend, skilled not only at solving but also at constructing. She’s also prone to moments of spontaneous boldness that Scott never would have dreamed of pulling off before meeting Fiora. Their budding friendship hits some bumps along the way and isn’t perfect—just like them. I can’t say enough about how realistic the book feels, from the dialogue to the problems the characters face to the elation one feels after solving a New York Times crossword puzzle. I rarely read contemporary, but I’m so glad that I gave Down and Across a shot. You don’t need to be a crossword fan to enjoy the book, either; Scott’s story is more than compelling enough on its own. The very clever way that the puzzles are woven into the novel, however, is sure to bring a smile to readers who also love the challenge that a blank puzzle grid poses.

Being a teen librarian, I am always looking for the next Fault in Our Stars or Perks of Being a Wallflower. This book is not it. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters throughout the whole book. I feel that Mr. Ahmadi was trying to force action that wasn’t very exciting and trying to make the reader believe it by referring to Scott’s travel to D.C. as “my roller-coaster runaway” and the hostel clerk’s “jaw dropped like you wouldn’t believe it”. It wasn’t that exhilarating! Events were either unexciting or too manipulated. It was too coincidental that Fiora and Trent not only knew each other, but grew up together in Charleston. It just so happened that the Senator Trent wanted to work for would be at the party that just so happens to be tomorrow, Bastille Day, and it just so happens that Benji has 8 tuxes, (Why? He’s a TA?) and it just so happens that the professor is at the party, and so on …. It took me quite a while to finish this book since I did not like it, but I didn’t give up. It did get a little better in the second half. I could go on and on about things I did not like in this book, but I’ve already spent too much time on it.

This was a solid YA book, 3 stars. Scott has run away from home while his parents are away on vacation for a month. He wants to find a way to have grit in his life to succeed and stop being a disappointment to his dad. Like usual in YA, he meets a pretty girl that has a wild streak and pushes him out of his comfort zone. He meets people that help him find himself and he works on learning what grit is. Though there are laugh out loud parts for the most part the book was just average for me. I do not feel like a lot of what occurred would be realistic and Scott did not learn and grow enough for it to be a coming of age story. I did love the diversity though. As the leading character Scott is Iranian-American with parents that speak Farsi and travel home to Iran to see relatives. The book brings up sensitive issues such as race, ethnicity, sexuality and religion in ways that can open a young adult to these topics.

4.5 stars Scott Ferdowsi has a record of quitting, but he wants to quit (this habit). His parents keep pressuring him to get serious and choose a career path, but Scott feels like he needs to get grittier to be able to do anything. In chasing down a famous professor who specializes in grit, which is studied to be directly correlated with success, Scott ends up embarking on an adventure across DC for guidance on success, meeting interesting characters along the way who help him find out who he is and who he wants to be. I really enjoyed reading this book! It was an enjoyable coming of age novel that followed Saaket’s journey in discovering who he is and gaining this abstract concept of “grit.” Saaket is such an interesting character and I loved how complex he is–he’s dealing with so many subplots at once. His Iranian-American heritage comes into play a lot, not only with the “tiger parents” but also with small encounters–finding books written by authors that “look like him,” an Australian dude calling him a “fookin’ terrorist,” etc. I really enjoyed learning about how Saaket also struggled with his culture as a child–having a “weird” name and being called out for the food he eats. But he’s also working with finding grit so he can be successful. Saaket starts out very misled at the beginning–it’s obviously so. But along the way, he discovers true grittiness–not what he hoped the famous professor would bestow upon him in a one day visit. And then he’s dealing with the romance and just general lack of passion he has. Apathetic-ness is the hobgoblin of success (do you like my Emerson reference?) and Saaket is really trying to counter this by “being gritty about grittiness.” I think he was an interesting character, but sometimes, specifically the apathetic portions, I couldn’t relate to him very well. But nonetheless, Saaket’s journey is very interesting. I think Ahmadi is a great writer–the technical skill is all there. There are these wordplays throughout the text, subtle things, that really made the lightbulb glow for me, and his formation and buildup of the characters, including the side ones too, were done well and respectfully. And I really enjoyed how the plot interwove with the character growth. It wasn’t like they were two separate plots, character growth as one, adventure as the other, but instead they worked together really well. I did find the middle portion to be a little stagnant for my tastes–it dragged and was slow-going for some of the middle–but I feel like this reflected what was going on with Saaket at the time and was definitely worth pushing through. This was a really great read–well constructed and interesting for the reader. I very much enjoyed reading it and will definitely be anticipating what Ahmadi comes out with next! If you’re looking for an insightful coming-of-age novel about success, along with some fun quirks thrown in as well, I would definitely recommend you check out Down and Across. Thank you to Penguin First to Read for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review! These links will go live February 4th and will also be promoted on Twitter:

I love YA books but this one was a bit far fetched for me. It took me starting and stopping about 5 times to finish. There’s been so much hype and I’m not sure I get why. There were parts I enjoyed and got a laugh out of but overall, just wasn’t thrilled. Scott, AKA Saaket, decides while his parents are in Iran that he is running away to DC to find some grit. He can’t seem to find what he wants to do with his life and his Father is pushing Doctor, Lawyer, etc. a high profile, high paying job. Problem is he is not interested in any of them. On the bus to DC he meets Fiora. She is spontaneous, a little outlandish, and everything Saaket is not. Will Saaket find what is he looking for before his parents come back and will he get away with his adventure or will his parents find out. Again a decent read but not really in depth.

As a YA novel, it met my expectations: story with moments of teen confusion, parental anger, despair for the future, and quirky friends who guide the main character toward success/resolution. However, there were a few points where Ferdowsi's choice of words, or use of a analogies, lit the page up - points where I said "This is better than I'd expect in a YA book." The underlying creativity and tie-backs to crosswords/puzzles/figuring out self-identity held the plot together well. And I appreciate that the girl didn't actually end up with the guy in the end. The final chapter was unexpected, but finished the book in a more memorable way because of it.

“Two steps forward, one back. Five forward, twelve back. Left, right, diagonal, down, across, and right back around to the block. We’re all just trying to keep moving. Sometimes we know where we’re going and sometimes we get lost. But as long as we move, we grow.” A few things drew me to this book. One, the adorable crossword puzzle cover. Two, the recommendation by Adam Silvera (I just recently read my first book by him and, though it wasn’t necessarily my favorite book ever, I respect the writing and story-crafting, look forward to reading another, and generally now respect his opinion). And lastly, it was one of the offers on First to Read – and I am definitely a sucker for a chance to read a book before everyone else. (Call me a nerd, it’s cool.) So yea, I entered to read it and was chosen to receive a copy. Alright! Scott Ferdowsi is your typical high school kid with overbearing parents – they want him to have a plan for the rest of his life (one that involves becoming something important and respectable, like a doctor or an engineer) like, right now. And Scott…well he’s your normal high school kid that doesn’t know what he wants out of life just yet. And is stressed out about it, hardcore. Especially since he has a tendency to quit when the going gets…less interesting. But when his parents go out of town for three weeks over the summer before his senior year (visiting family in Iran) and leave him behind to get experience at a summer research internship, Scott makes a crazy decision. He “runs away” from home to visit Washington D.C. and track down Professor Mallard, a researcher and academic known for work in “grit,” or that special persistence that allows people to be successful even after failure. He’s hoping she’ll help him find his own grit. Along the way though, he meets some new friends, Fiora, a cruciverbalist (crossword-puzzle maker) who just a little bit crazy (but in a good way…mostly), Trent, a bartender and aspiring politician, and Jeanette, a hyper-religious girl looking to experience a little life before settling down in her traditional family life. They each help him, in their own way, as he spends 3 weeks growing up and finding his grit. First, this book is adorable. Truly a heartwarming coming of age tale. Scott’s stressors are wonderfully poignant to young adult life – the struggle to find who you are, what you are good at, how to plan for the future and somehow translate that into a life is universal. And the fear that you won’t be able to (that comes from within) coupled with pressures from parents and society, is something that I, at least, identify with strongly. That lost feeling that Scott has, when you truly do not know what you want but wish that you did because it would make everyone, including yourself, happier…that’s written spot on here. Other than that, there is a fantastically representative range of young adult struggles and experiences, from each of the characters in their own turn, particularly regarding relationships with parents, that efficiently show how each person has their own issues that they must tackle and though they can be commiserated about, and the burdens shared, they should never be ordered or compared. It’s an important lesson for us all. I thought perhaps some things happened a bit too conveniently for Scott, throughout the novel. Meeting Fiora and Trent, the deal with the hostel and generally some of the other random connections with other characters; they seem, at times, to happen too easily to be realistic. However, if you are able to look past that initial unbelievability, the relationships that develop from those first meetings are just beautiful. Within the span of Scott’s time in D.C., he meets and creates real relationships with people, that have depth and nuance consistent with the story timeline and plot, but do not advance too far into the realm of unnecessary romance or unrealistic closeness. And the way the “end,” if you will, as Scott’s time in D.C. ends are true to the personalities of the characters and do not give into nostalgia or a need for “perfect endings.” I truly appreciate that reality and thought it gave the book an extra gravitas, despite the general heartwarming bildungsroman feel of the story. As a small note, I read this as an ebook ARC, so unfortunately, the illustrations related to the crossword puzzles came through in very strange formatting. I feel like I really lost out on one of the best parts of the book as result. I loved the way crossword puzzles were used to tie things together and “teach” lessons and it was too bad that the visuals were not completely there to support this facet of the book. I definitely plan to flip through it at the library/a bookstore once it’s published, in order to see what it’s supposed to look like! Also, random, has anyone seen the movie All About Steve, with Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper? Bullock’s character totally reminds me of Fiora (and not just because they are both cruciverbalists) – I kept picturing her every time I read her parts. If that gets stuck in your head now…I’m sorry. In any case, moving on… The dialogue was quick and genuine, which I loved. Scott’s coming of age happened with events that were only partially farfetched (as they must needs be, in order to make this book entertaining enough to keep reading), yet still, in the grand scheme of things, are small (both in the trajectory of the world and their effect on people other than Scott himself). I appreciated this aspect, in particular. I’ll be honest, I felt like things dragged a bit in the middle. Nothing was unreasonable about the pace, but for some reason, about halfway in, I lost momentum. However, I felt that it did pick back up towards the last quarter. Regardless, this was an incredibly sweet story that made me smile and cheer for Scott’s successes. This ARC was provided to me courtesy of First to Read and Viking Books in exchange for an honest review.

Scott Ferdowsi cannot commit to any hobby or interest. He does not know what he wants to be when he grows up or what to study in college but he does know he doesn't want to disappoint his parents, Afghani immigrants, who want him to succeed with all the opportunities they made sure he's been given. When he's been given a summer alone at home, he decides to take matters into his own hands. He learns about grit - the attribute that makes people persevere and not give up when there are obstacles between you and your goal - and desperately wants to meet the professor at Georgetown who studies it. He's convinced she can help him learn how to be gritty. He buys a one way bus ticket to Washington DC and expected to be on a bus back to Philadelphia the next morning with the answer to his problems. Then he meets his seatmate, Fiora, who is a quirky college student who only wants to write crossword puzzles and not take life too seriously. The one day trip becomes an adventure he never saw coming. This has all the ingredients for a YA novel: 17-year-old trying to find himself before college, manic pixie girl, gay best friend, slightly evil love interest, some unbelievable situations. It's all here. Throw all that together in my favorite city in the US and revolved around a topic that's very important to me, grit, and it's bound to be a book I like. And it definitely is. One of the points that I found particularly unbelievable was the professor allowing Scott to intern with him for a couple weeks. A famous professor at Georgetown will undoubtedly have summer interns already that had to apply and be interviewed months ago. There's no way a high school junior would be able to just show up and be given such a coveted opportunity. But that wouldn't suit the storyline so I do understand why it was included. It's just the one that stuck as the most unbelievable. This a fun coming-of-age story of a first generation American trying to figure out how to make himself and his parents happy. I love his first generation perspective on diversity and how he feels like he's viewed by others. There's a quick reference to mental illness and how just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. Both are topics that would definitely beneficial for teenagers to learn.

A touching coming of age story, with characters that you'll love and maybe 1 or 2 that you'll dislike. because let's be honest that one girl was annoying as hell. I do have to say that the beginning of the story, strongly reminded me of The Catcher in The Rye. Scott "Saaket" is the ultimate quitter, he has quit everything he ever started. When he hears about a Georgetown Professor's theory on "grit", he becomes obsessed on how he can acquire "grit" of his own. His parents are overprotective..but when they head off to Iran for a few weeks. Scott runs away to DC to try and get the professor of grit to help him, en route he meets Fiora, a fun, spunky, free spirited girl, who not only is a crossword puzzle genius, but teaches Scott a few things about friendship, love and having adventures. The characters in this book are amazingly well developed, personable and relate-able. The pace is good and the voice of the story compelling. I couldn't put it down.

This was a really great YA novel about what it means to have grit! The book was funny, and sweet, and all about coming into one's identity.  Scott is a teenager who just doesn't know what he wants to do and feels the pressure to live up to everyone's expectations. Unfortunately, this pressure causes him to give up quite easily - until he decides to become a "grittier" individual. I really connected a lot with Scott's character - I know what it's like to be lost and not know what you want to do with life. This confusion and struggle was depicted in a wonderfully humorous context that kept me interested the entire way. I wanted to know Scott would rise up to the occasion and how his encounter with Fiora would change him.  While I loved Scott's character, Fiora was a bit too eccentric for me. I definitely understand why the author made her the way he did, and I have no problems with her being crazy and zany.... but there were times when her behaviour really confused me and just wasn't necessary. I did love her addiction to crossword puzzles; that was a really unique feature of the story and I enjoyed reading about Fiora and Scott bonding through them. I also thought it was awesome that the author made a crossword at the end of the book for the reader to solve!  Overall, this was a really nice coming-of-age story about identity, motivation, and grit! I'm giving it a solid 4/5 stars!

This didn't wow me, but I liked it well enough to try the author again. I think the fact that Adam Silvera blurbed it and recommended it gave it a little more hype and raised my expectations a bit too much. There were some very John Green-ish vibes to the story (the friends, the trip, and--of course--the manic pixie dream girl character). There were also some things that didn't really make sense (Scott's parents seemed overprotective but yet they left him alone for quite a long period of time, his money situation, etc). I'd be interested in the author's future works, for sure. I gave this particular book 3 stars.

I found this to be a really cute fast read. I enjoy character driven contemporary reads and Scott was such a quirky, interesting kid that I could not help but to love- and that's not even mentioning the random people he meets on his spontaneous journey, all so different but necessary. He tried to find his purpose and goals, as well as himself and somehow keep who he was culturally. I have not read very many YA books with male main characters or too many YA books written by male authors to be completely honest, and I can say I was 100% happy with what I received here. I completely connected with Scott regardless of our different backgrounds, I rooted him on and experienced his triumphs and heartaches right along with him. I highly recommend this coming of age story for anyone, regardless of age or gender, and I look forward to whatever Arvin wants to write.

What I loved most about this book, was the universal feeling of purposeless and drifting. I think we can all look back on our lives, young and old, where we have this feeling of being lost. We don't know where we should go or what we should be doing. And when you look around in this social media age where we only see the 'perfects' of their lives, it can really bring your sense of value down. Our society, in many ways, values a put together lifestyle and path. There is no real 'acceptable' stage where you're figuring it out. Sure there are times when people say 'they're just figuring it out' but there's a real limit on that. And now we get to the parts where I had a few hang ups - Fiora. Is it weird that Fiora reminded me of the Zoey Deschanel from 500 Days of Summer? In the same way, I thought her presence would flit into Scott's life, bewitch him with her whimsy, and flit right out again. While I loved Scott, there were times in the book where I was struggling direction wise. There's a somewhat clearly defined end date for his escapade, but I was struggling to find a 'larger meaning'. To me, I loved the ending because it wasn't overly flowery or overdone, it was real.

Down and Across is a funny story of self discovery. Scott, who can never stick with any commitments, decides he is going to run away to Washington, DC to learn about grit. Along the way, he meets Fiora, a wild girl who pushes him outside his comfort zone, and Trent, her chill best friend from home. Once I got into this book, I tore through it! I laughed out loud a few times, and definitely felt for Scott as he tried to figure out where he was going. Also, I want to do more crossword puzzles.

Sometimes it's great to be able to look back at being a teenager and remember how momentous each event, each word seemed to hold. This cute, fun and sweet novel reminds it's readers that when you are young, it seems as if everyone but you has their life together and knows exactly what they want. The novel touched on a lot of topics including depression, political hopefulness and bigotry, which I think is good for anyone to read about now. It also does a great job of bringing DC to life, which is a city I know little about. I enjoyed this and hope the author keeps writing!

I thought overall the book was pretty cute. Although some of the characters were rough and a little obnoxious, I thought it was a cute finding yourself and coming of age tale. Some of the situations happened a little too conveniently but still a fun read.

While I am not a young male son of immigrants who is struggling to find myself, I think if I were, Mr. Ahmadi would have captured me and my 'voice' perfectly in the character of Scott/Saakat. Scott, since he prefers to be called that, decides to rebel while his parents are on a trip home to visit an ailing relative. In a madcap series of events, Scott runs away to Washington DC, steals a bike, meets a girl, gets a job, and finds himself doing all those things you expect only to find in a John Hughes movie. And while I wasn't the biggest fan of Fiore, who seems very disrespectful of her friends, I loved how crossword puzzles were interwoven throughout the book. (There is even a complete puzzle at the end!) This book was a fun, campy read.

Thank you First To Read for giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi. Was this one of my favorite books - no it is not one that I would run and an purchase myself nor is it one that I will push as a must read, but it was an easy to read book that kept my interest. Scott (Saaket) a sixteen year old left home along for a month by his parents is to be taking part of an internship in his hometown. He however decides he wants to be in charge of what his internship is and goes on a bus trip to DC to meet a professor who focuses on grit. Along the way he meets Fiora, Trent, and Jeanette and each change his life and choices in different ways. This book pretty much takes us through Scott trying to figure out what he wants to do in his life and how failure is ok. If you don't make it try again.

I felt a bit unsettled with the book for several chapters, but I tried to give it a chance. Finally, I couldn't deal with it anymore. Fiora is such a manic pixie dream girl that it's ridiculous. She keeps popping up in Scott's life and leading him on wild adventures, and I felt like my eyebrow was constantly raised when she was on-page. I think Scott's journey could've been way more interesting if there wasn't a girl involved. And if his friends back home were more important or the people he was meeting proved more interesting and well-rounded, then I might've been able to stick with the story. This one's definitely a book to skip, y'all.

I really wanted to love this book after seeing the blurb by Adam Silvera, but I couldn’t finish this one. After about 25%, I realized it reminded me too much of the John Green books that I didn’t like because of the manic pixie girl trope. While I was sort of interested in whether Saaket (Scott) Ferdowsi ever discovered his passion, I felt like the story would get too over the top unbelievable that this is really happening to a high schooler. While I’m sure lots of other people will find this book quirky and charming, it wasn’t for me.

I didn't finish. I was pretty bored, and didn't make it very far.

I enjoyed this book as it has a totally believable story, mostly believable characters (Fiora was a little stretch) and a good message for the helicopter parent or the unmotivated, unfocused teen.

Sadly I DNF this book. The writing just did not reach me and I could not connect to the characters. Seems lately in the books that I have been selected for the writing is scattered and just not an enjoyable read.

*The publisher provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review* Meet Scott/Saaket, a 17 year old Iranian boy who lives in Philadelphia. He narrates his story, which begins with his parents living him alone for the summer, trusting him to be responsible and occupy his time working. The father hopes Saaket will find a passion and a future career. Saaket's heart is not in it, and he wonders what is wrong with him. He decides to consult a specialist in Washington D.C., for which he must abandon the internship his father found for him and his home. What follows is the account of his adventures in DC and the people he meets. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I do identify with the main character's dilemma, which is why I wanted to read the book in the first place. However, it was not as relatable as I thought, although the character is likable enough. The introduction of the crossword theme is intresting. I learned a lot about crosswords and how they are constructed. There is even a crossword at the end, which is a nice addition. Most of the situations in the book are down to earth, very lifelike, after all people say life is stranger than fiction, but if you are looking for an insight or a clever realization about the nature of grit or passion, you will find the book falls a bit short. It is enjoyable, and will appeal to those who like YA or literary fiction.

Saaket wants to get gritty. He wants to know what makes great people get to where they are. But the problem is that his parents want the best for him--to the point of micromanaging his life. When they leave for a trip to Iran, Saaket sees this as his chance to get gritty by learning from the Georgetown professor that's an expert in it. Just like any adventure, things don't always go his way. This is a fun book to read, not only because Saaket is reluctantly thrown into a wild ride of adventures, but because it stays grounded, no matter how much trouble Saaket's new D.C. friends try to get him into. It's a book that has a lot of heart because it's what we all go through: trying to find our purpose and our reasons for moving past all of those failures and anxieties to get there.

DNF -- I found the writing to be very disjointed. I understand that the main character is supposed to be "flaky" and doesn't follow through on just about anything, but the premise just seemed to fall short for me. The dialogue between the male and female leads was interesting and funny at times, but they go from him getting mad at her for giving her a stolen bicycle to her protesting that she can't get a job in D.C. because everything is about politics. The writing just didn't keep my interest with the sporadic plot points.

The story of directionless, young Saaket/Scott won me over with and interesting plot and incredibly engaging characters. Scott is every 16 year old being forced to decide their future before they truly know themselves. Scott's (dangerous) adventure of discovery as he travels to find the one person he believes can help him decide his path is full of well-rounded characters and thought-provoking moments. My one demerit is that I really dislike the "manic pixie girl" trope and the plot depends greatly on it. It's a minor annoyance in the wider scheme of the greatness of the book, but a thing that happens too often in books. I'd love to see authors solve things without resorting to the girl who throws the protagonist into a tailspin.

A fun coming of age story featuring an Iranian-American who, like many teens, keeps trying new things to see if he likes them and quits when he loses interest. His adventure in DC is well told, although it has a few too many coincidences for my taste.

It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did it was hard to put down. Scott is a great character, despite his evaluation of himself. Who doesn't love a self-deprecating teenage boy, amirite? Scott is funny, if not a little sad. He can't seem to concentrate or stay committed to anything (his parents don't believe in psychologists). In an effort to fix himself, Scott ditches an internship in order to talk to a professor who studies grit, which he decides he needs more of. While Scott is searching for grit he also finds Fiora, Trent, and Jeanette. This trio of characters affect his life in big, small, and kind of weird ways. Scott's time in DC is filled with hangovers, fights, friendships, and really awkward dates. Through it all Scott does happen to find something that he's passionate about and manages to help others in the process. I loved reading about Scott's progress and how he come to terms with things in his life. His relationships with the people he meet are genuine and entertaining (even when they end). Great read about a boy trying ti find his place in the world. Thanks to First to Read and the publisher for the ARC.

Definitely, we have all felt like Scott at least once in our lives. Some of us may have not been so lucky as to begin a journey trying to figure out what we REALLY want to do with our lives, and finding amazing people in our paths, such as Fiora and Trent, but we will eventually get there. Life is just like solving a crossword puzzle: at first we might not have any idea where to begin, but we will get some answers to fill the boxes, and when we least expect it... it'll be all figured out.

Finding a purpose in life is difficult and sometimes you need a little push to get you moving in the right direction to find it and yourself. Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi follows a teenage boy on a summer adventure to acquire grit. Scott Ferdowsi has a history of giving up on things, including learning how to play instruments, writing a novel, and the summer internship his father acquired for him. Scott isn't sure what he wants out of life, but he's relatively certain that he doesn't want to follow the path outlined for him by his parents. With his parents visiting his grandfather in Iran, Scott is left at home in Philadelphia for a month, leaving him free to explore what he wants. Traveling to Washington, D.C. to talk with a Georgetown professor who studies grit (without anyone knowing where he's going), Scott unwittingly embarks on a journey where he meets some interesting people, one of whom writes crossword puzzles, who help him realize his grit.  A quick, relatable, and entertaining read, this coming-of-age story highlights the wonder of discovering the world and yourself. Though a nice story that demonstrates the intrinsic drive many people may have but don't realize and subsequently utilize, most of the action is instigated and perpetuated by coincidental events or meetings, which is a plot contrivance that I'm not overly fond of due to its flimsy nature, but if you suspend your disbelief to get beyond that, it's a light enough story of self-discovery. The book has some decently diverse characters in its cast, but there were aspects to their diversity and general characterization that were merely surface level, leaving much to be desired on a deeper, more complex level. Overall, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

This book was very quirky and eye opening of the life of grit. This book was truley fun to read and i think everyone needs a fiora in ther life to push us.this book was amazing and definitely a must read

I absolutely loved this book! Throughout the book we get to watch Saaket grow up and figure out what direction his life might be going in. Along the way, he must overcome certain hardships and puzzles to find his way out and do what it takes to become the person he wants to be. I plan on doing a full review on my blog closer to release!

I had to DNF this book, which I never, never do. I found the protagonist to be so wildly unlikable that I couldn't bear to force myself through it for more than a handful of pages at a time. But further, I found the plot to be dry and unrelatable, the other characters flat and unrealistic, and specifically the female character (I presume love interest, though I didn't read far enough to confirm) to be a real manic pixie dream girl in the making. Not for me.

"He'd asset himself in all matters Fiora like he knew the girl better than she knew herself." I received a copy of this ebook from in exchange for an honest review. Holy manic pixie dream girl batman! This is the kind of book that makes me wonder if I'm too old to enjoy YA. The premise is interesting - following Saaket "Scott" in his quest to develop grit but the execution didn't wow me. Scott quickly meets Fiora - the manic pixie girl of his dreams. Not only does she help him stretch out his money in DC and spend it on things like underage drinking and picking up girls he's not actually interested in - she does it all for her own amusement because she's quirky! And of course she has a gay best friend, Trent, who knows Fiora better than she knows herself because she's just a girl from the South, and these characters only exist to help Scott find himself (but not really). Even Fiora's mental health is just a plot thrown in to make us feel for Scott and instead of some Looking for Alaska type revelation where Scott realizes Fiora is a real person who isn't confined to his perception of her we get her tragic backstory to give her flaws(!). Also it's really inconsistent when there are and aren't consequences for the actions of any characters in this story. I don't know what magical DC this book is based on where high school students can absolutely sneak into universities and talk famous researchers into taking them on for no money and everyone has money to burn on drinking every night but that's at least 65% of this book. I was hoping for more substance that was disappointed. The book left me wondering why that lesson couldn't have been shared in a less convoluted story. Maybe I'm just too old and disillusioned for YA but this one missed the mark for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars I love a good coming of age story, and with Down and Across I got a GREAT coming of age story. •Pro: Scott was fab-u-los! I couldn't get enough of him and his musings. Being in his head was a total treat too. Loved him! •Pro: The side characters in this book were very well crafted. From the major to the minor players, each character had something that made you give them your attention. •Pro: I loved the whole "grit" concept, and thought the short profiles on people, who Scott considered "gritty" were so awesome. Some of the historical figures I knew a lot about, but there were others I didn't, and I was grateful to learn their stories. •Pro: I really appreciated that Ahmadi included people with all different viewpoints. There was the far right, the far left, and somewhere in-between. Lots of ideas were exchanged, and the reader is left with many things to consider. •Pro: I really like when the protagonist's cultural background plays a role in the story. Scott was first generation American, and was trying to figure out how his heritage fit into his life. I really enjoyed all the little bits about his family and their background that he shared with us. •Pro: One of Scott's biggest struggles was with his parents. He felt like they were too overprotective and that he could never live up to their standards. During his time in DC his appreciation of his parents grows and changes as he grew and changed. It was quite lovely the way Ahmadi worked this storyline. •Pro: I think so many young adults will relate to Scott. Those later years of high school can be quite a crossroads for many. As graduation looms, some decision need to be made that may affect one's future, and that struggle was explored so well in this book. •Pro: Right now I am standing and applauding the author on that stupendous ending. That's how it's done folks. I am a closure-ho, and Ahmadi gave me answers, which left me in a state of elation. Overall: This was such a wonderful coming of age story! I so enjoyed being in DC with Saaket/Scott as he searched for his "grit", and I will forever sing the praises of endings like the one Ahmadi gifted us with. I smiled so hard, tears fell out of my eyes. I will absolutely be on the look out for more books from this author.

I was drawn to this book for two main reasons. First, it's about a boy who comes to DC, not knowing anyone, and ends up learning more about himself than he ever expected. I too came to DC as a stranger and learned a lot about myself in 2008. Circumstances were very different - I was an adult and had a job and apartment lined up. But I have great memories of discovering DC for the first time and enjoyed seeing the city through the eyes of the main character, Saaket. The second reason was much simpler - I'm a word nerd. The crossword puzzle theme was so much fun for me. Sometimes I struggle with YA books because I fit more into the category of "mature audience" than "young adult" and when I don't connect with the book I question if it's because I'm not the intended audience. Down and Across had a few moments where I didn't entirely buy the premise, but it didn't distract me from the book, which was a nice story. I'm sure that I would have loved it even more as a teenager. This book takes place in Washington, DC, and naturally the characters talk about politics, which can be a touchy subject these days. I'm saddened by how divisive the political climate is in the U.S. and it always seems to get worse with every new administration. For that reason I appreciate that the conflicting political views represented by the characters weren't the typical Republican vs. Democrat, but more of a conservative vs. libertarian difference of opinions. There are some stereotypical characters when it comes to political beliefs, but most people are more nuanced, as I think most of the U.S. is, and I think that's part of the charm of this book and goes back to the crossword puzzle theme - so often we try to put people in boxes to represent their world view - political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, race, economic advantages & disadvantages, these things are not all black and white crossword-puzzle-type boxes when describing most people and to see the world that way dismisses some of the best parts of human nature. We are much more complicated than that. I like the outside-the-box thinking of this book that focuses so much on crossword puzzles. Okay, so it's not a perfect book. The kid basically ran away from home when his parents did a 180 from being controlling helicopter parents, to skipping town and leaving him on his own with a handful of cash. Running away from home may come across a bit romanticized for an impressionable young reader and it's an unlikely series of events in real life, but this isn't real life - it was fiction. And it was pretty entertaining in my opinion.

“Down and Across” was simply great. Reading this novel from the perspective of Scott Ferdowsi reminded me of the similar pressures I faced with my parents, especially when it came down to school, career, and future goals! Ahmadi does a great job bringing humor, adventure, and life lessons all in one in this novel and I truly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend reading this book!

I had such high hopes for this book. However, I just feel okay about it after finishing it. Scott (or Sakeet) is left alone for 4 weeks the summer prior to his senior year of high school. His parents go to visit a sick relative (Scott's grandfather) in Iran. Scott, indecisive and a frequent quitter, decides to pay a short visit to DC to meet a professor of psychology who is on the forefront of research regarding grit and success. Instantly, his plans become derailed when he sits next to Fiora on the bus to DC. His 2 day trip to DC becomes a 4 week stay. Along the way, he meets Trent and Jeannette as well which as you read, you can see how Scott's presence in their lives have an impact...for better and for worse. I felt the main problem with this book is that it couldn't decide exactly what it was. There were parts that started to become a little deeper only to be pushed away quickly. I also felt deeply uncomfortable in regards to how an incident in the book with Fiora was discussed by Scott as it seemed really dismissive regarding mental health issues and perpetuated mental illness stigmas and stereotypes. That being said, I would read another book by this author even though I didn't particularly care for this.

Reading "Down and Across" by Arvin Ahmadi was defiantly an adventure. It reminded me of several friends in one person. Glad to see YA books are getting more attention and can't wait to see what else this author comes out with. Recommend reading it soon!

3.5 stars Saaket "Scott" Ferdowsi isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. His Iranian-American parents want him to do a summer internship which will set him on the path to a practical and stable career later in life. With his parents out the country for a month, Scott makes the decision to go to the nation's capital to get advice from a college professor who claims to know the secret of success. There he meets an interesting cast of characters including a girl with a love for crossword puzzles. One crazy adventure after another just might lead Scott into finally figuring out just what he wants in life. I liked the theme of this book, a teenage boy frustrated at not having it all figured out yet. While I personally would not have gone to all of the extremes he did in order to find out answers, I had to admire his tenacity. This book kinda straddled the line between quirky and annoying but for the most part it was an enjoyable read. I wasn't the biggest fan of Fiora but did feel she served a good purpose to the story. Would recommend to those looking for a young adult novel that is a little bit fun and has some depth. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story is infused with crossword puzzle themes alluding to life as the ultimate puzzle. The main characters are engaging and quirky. I often tire of young adult stories with predictable angst and relationship challenges, but these characters are fresh and interesting to follow. The causal writing style kept me interested in the plights of Scott and Fiora. Scott delves into a study of "grit," while struggling with his own lack of ability to succeed. Fiora is a "cruciverbalist," determined to unravel her family history and dramas through constructing crosswords. Their paths collide in an amusing and unpredictable way, which develops into a delightful plot of discovery. I am not a crossword enthusiast, and this book made me wonder what I might be missing. I look forward to reading more of Ahmadi's works. .

When a book is blurbed by Adam Silvera, the man behind the spectacular, rip-your-heart-out They Both Die at the End, you know it's going to be, wait, I take that back...not just good excellent. As it turns out, Down and Across is indeed excellent. It's the kind of book that reminds me just how wonderful contemporary YA can be. Down and Across is smart, quirky, and incredibly charming. Down and Across introduces us to Scott Ferdowsi. Scott can't seem to follow through on anything - music, writing, internships, etc. He's the ultimate quitter much to his father's dismay. Scott is the character for anyone who seem to never measure up to their parent's wishes, who can't seem to find their "thing" in life no matter how hard they try. This is what makes Scott so incredibly relatable and likable, in my opinion. It's been a while since I've been in high school, but I can remember so clearly not having any idea of what I wanted to do, changing my mind everyday just as Scott does in this book. Therefore, seeing his journey in this book struck a chord in me - I could easily slip into his shoes and understand what he was feeling. It's also important to add that Scott isn't lazy - he's more ambitious than he thinks, especially when it comes to his journey on finding his "grit." I'm a strong believer on how one experience, or summer in this case, can change everything, and that's exactly what happens here. Scott finds his purpose and owns it. Besides Scott, Down and Across offers up such a wonderful cast of characters. Fiora, for instance, is wild and reckless. I've never seen someone love cross words as much as she does. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the role she plays in Scott's summer. She inspires him to do crazy things - some of which he most certainly shouldn't do - but she makes him more well rounded because of it, someone who'd rather go on adventure than sit around. More importantly, I appreciated that Fiora wasn't perfect. She dealt with her own setbacks in this book, some of which broke my heart, but at the end of the day, she's just someone who won't let the bad get her down - she's just on to her next adventure. I also came to love Rick, Fiora's best friend and Scott's constant savior. Rick's view on politics was heartwarming, and I loved seeing him hone his passions in this. This boy definitely do what his "grit" was! At its core, Down and Across is a coming-of-age: Scott goes to Washington, DC on a whim and finds himself. First of all, I LOVED the DC setting. DC is a city that will always have my heart, and I loved that Arvin included so many real restaurants/venues within Down and Across's pages! Additionally, I loved the crossword application to life. It truly was the perfect metaphor, and better yet, I loved that actual crosswords were included in the book. I also enjoyed how this book shows the ups and downs to growing up. Scott experiences the good and bad in DC. He makes life long friends, finds his "grit," learns to live on his own, but he also experiences hate, a bad relationship, and the consequences of lying. It made for an interesting and heartwarming read. Also, the epilogue? I don't think I've ever been happier with an epilogue! I loved how everything ended - it was the perfect mix of closure and openness. So in summary: Buy (or borrow!) Down and Across. Read it. And (hopefully!) love it. Arvin is a fantastic new voice in YA. I'll be the first in line to buy his second book!

I enjoyed reading this fun and quirky young adult novel. As Scott embarks on his summer quest to become gritty and discover his passion, he learns about himself and his place in the world. Becoming a young adult and deciding what to do when you grow up is challenging and stressful, especially when your parents have certain expectations. As Scott's summer adventure unfolds, the reader watches him mature and become more independent. The development process of a crossword puzzle was perfect for the book and demonstrating how all the pieces fit together, in puzzles and in life. All in all, this was a great quick read!


More to Explore

  • Girl Gone Viral

Copy the following link