Monday, January 29, 2018

ARC Review: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
Down and Across
By Arvin Ahmadi
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Publication Date: February 6, 2018

To Sum It Up: After barely starting a summer internship that he has no interest in, Scott Ferdowsi hops a bus to Washington, D.C. to seek out the Georgetown professor whose online grit quiz he took. Scott hopes to find a direction for his future, which looms uncertain as his parents try to steer him towards a career in medicine or engineering. Scott’s singular mission in the pursuit of grit morphs into a wide-open field of possibilities after meeting free-spirited college student and crossword enthusiast Fiora Buchanan on the bus to D.C. Whether or not he gets to meet Professor Cecily Mallard in person, this trip is sure to change Scott’s life.

Review: 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.

All in All: What a wonderful and winning debut from Arvin Ahmadi! Down and Across was exactly my kind of contemporary novel, and featuring my all-time favorite crossword (the New York Times, of course) just melted my heart.


  1. I've been really curious about this book, so I'm so glad to see you loved it! I'm definitely going to try to pick this one up.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Yay- I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! It was so good!


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