Down and Across

Arvin Ahmadi. Viking, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-425-28987-7
First-time author Ahmadi writes a memorable coming-of-age novel all about grit: wanting it, wondering how to get it, and discovering where it lies. Saaket “Scott” Ferdowsi, an impulsive 16-year-old, is left at home in Philadelphia while his parents visit their homeland of Iran. Scott is supposed to be getting serious about life by doing an internship (which involves examining “microscopic mouse poop”), but he keeps thinking about a Georgetown University study that his father mentioned before leaving. According to professor Cecily Mallard, the chief predictor of success isn’t grades or IQ but grit, “a person’s ability to stick with something.” Feeling inadequate in that area, Scott hops a bus to Washington, D.C., to seek out the professor’s advice. Thus begins a sequence of misadventures and serendipitous encounters as an adventurous crossword puzzle enthusiast, a big-hearted bartender, and Professor Mallard steer Scott into challenging and rewarding situations, all recorded in Scott’s self-effacing and funny first-person narration. Witty, smart, and inspiring, the novel celebrates life’s big and little surprises and the connections made between people that lead to profound changes. Ages 12–up. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/16/2017
Release date: 01/30/2018
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