Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
Publication Date: February 6, 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.
So let me start by saying one thing: I love crossword puzzles. My mom is a crossword puzzle fanatic and I’ve been doing them since I was in elementary school. When I heard about this debut novel featuring a girl who wants to write crossword puzzles and a high school kid on an adventure, it immediately shot to the top of my TBR. This should have been a book that I loved, but I just… actually hated it.
To start off, Scott is the worst. He’s a whiny, entitled brat who literally runs away from home because he doesn’t want to do the internship that his father got for him. At sixteen years old. What kind of kid has the opportunity to do an actual internship at sixteen years old? And then throws it away because of a temper tantrum? Takes a bus to Washington, DC? Lies about who he is to get a room in a hostel? Pesters a famous psychology professor until she gives him a different internship that he actually wants? Constantly lies to everyone around him? I mean… THE WORST. I actually hated Scott.
And Fiora? Normally I’m not that hard on manic pixie dream girls, but come on. What was the point of Fiora? She just kind of flits around being quirky and like… weirdly flirting with this sixteen-year-old kid even though she’s in college. And don’t even get me started on Jeanette, because any girl who introduces herself by saying “all girls are crazy except me” is actually crazy and you should stay away from her. I didn’t see a point to any female character in this book except maybe Dr. Mallard, and even that’s pushing it. Also, no offense, but I just pictured a duck every time she was mentioned.
I just felt like this book was so poorly constructed. Nothing made sense. How exactly does this sixteen-year-old kid get away with all of this? I don’t want to get into spoilers, but he is consistently treated as if he’s at least eighteen years old (and frequently as if he’s 21) and… have you seen a sixteen-year-old recently? Because I have, in the medical office where I spend at least forty hours of my week, and let me tell you… I am not mistaking any sixteen-year-old for a legal adult.
This is maybe a book that I would have enjoyed more as an actual teenager who didn’t have experience as an adult in the real world. It felt like every YA stereotype that drives people crazy was haphazardly thrown into one book with some crossword puzzles added in for good measure. I’m just so, so disappointed.
Two stars because at least it wasn’t as bad as Troll.
or old#killingthetbr: 4 months on shelf
Have you read Down and Across? Which book has most disappointed you recently?
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