I really wanted to love Down and Across and while I deeply enjoyed parts of it, as a whole I was left somewhere in the middle. I had some pretty complicated feelings, so let’s just get into the review and I’ll explain!
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. 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.
I loved the narrative voice. It was clever and genuine and it picks you up right off the first page. (This book was also recommended by Adam Silvera who is the King of ripping my heart into pieces, so that certainly helped). I really appreciated Scott’s Persian background and the ways it was integrated into the story.
(I know we’re all tired of this thing where diversity is seamless woven in and doesn’t encapsulate the person’s role, but I think it’s still important to point out where someone got it right. It’s these little touches – the ways he was bullied or made fun of for his Persian name- that give it authenticity).
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.
For me, this struck so close to home, because I’m currently in that rocking point, that ditch with Scott. And so I could really empathize with many of his feelings, even as someone who people would characterize as having ‘grit’.
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. I was worried she would have no depth of her own. Happily I was proven wrong, but until then, I sort of had this ominous feeling in my belly.
To me, I loved the ending because it wasn’t overly flowery or overdone, it was real. This is a book that’s documents a piece of a life, one that is messy – full of mistakes and complications – but that teaches you a lesson. It shows you a small piece of the giant of what life is and what it will teach you all so you can get back and take an honest portion of it again. It was totally sweet and I would definitely recommend. Also the crossword at end is super soft and cute!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from First to Read.
Are you a crossword lover? I can somehow never get through a whole one 🙁
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