Saturday, March 31, 2018

Down and Across: Intriguing Coming of Age Story Is a Fun Read!

Book Review: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
Version: Library borrow

Do you have "grit"? Saaket "Scott" Ferdowski didn't think he did and he went in search of it one summer break, unbeknownst to his parents while they traveled overseas. So unfolds the intriguing coming of age story in Down and Across.

Scott was a junior in high school and he was supposed to be working on a summer internship his very strict father had set up for him for while they were away. Instead, he quit the internship and left his hometown in Philly for Washington, D.C., to see a psychology professor at Georgetown University who specializes in "grit". It was supposed to be a short trip, just a few days in the big city, long enough to get some help straightening out what Scott saw as a life of failure. It turned into a four-week stint, an adventure he didn't, couldn't, see coming.

This is the unfolding journey of life story in Down and Across, written by first-time novelist Arvin Ahmadi. In it, Scott meets an undisciplined adventuress named Fiora who gets him into all kinds of trouble, a friendly bartender who watches his back, an iron-willed student on a make-it-or-break summer lark of her own, a psychology professor who gives in to help Scott after several attempts to resist his pleas for help, and a host of other strange characters who hang out in his world. Throughout this story written for a teen fiction audience but is also readable and enjoyable for older readers, we can't help but empathize with this youngster lost in the abyss of youth in search of identity. And we can't help but remember our own struggles to figure out who we are, where we are, where we want to go in life and how to get there, and how we rustle up the grit to survive the journey. And if you are a teen fighting through those struggles now, you will surely identify with the challenges and self-doubts and urges Scott faces.

Ahmadi has a wonderful writing style with an easily accessible "voice", creating relatable characters suffering through amazing situations. The title relates to the characters working crossword puzzles, which becomes a metaphor for working through life's challenges, yet its 320 pages are a fun, quick read. Do you have grit? Read Down and Across and find out.

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