Clover Book Club: "Down and Across"
Down and Across, the debut novel from Arvin Ahmadi, is a game-changing kind of YA book (and only partially because crossword puzzles play a major part). This coming-of-age story follows Scott Ferdowsi, a high schooler who can’t commit to anything—and when his habit of quitting threatens his college apps, he seeks the help of a famous prof. But what ensues instead is a random encounter with a girl on a train, who leads him on an adventure so unpredictable, you won’t be able to put the book down.
Inspired by a TED talk, Ahmadi started the book when he was a senior in college. After graduation, he ended up in the tech industry, and finished the book during late nights and on weekends. He’s described it as “the book of my heart,” but it’ll steal yours too. Here’s what this month’s book club hosts thought...
Down and Across is about an Iranian teen struggling with knowing who he is, but not knowing who he wants to be. His father categorizes him as a quitter, and Scott doesn't disagree. Scott is trying to figure out how to respond to the question all adults love to ask: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Though Scott runs away to find his answer, it was nice to read a book with a main character who wasn't put into life or death situations every five minutes to reach their goal.
When my friends and I met up for our book club meeting-slash-study session (because of midterms), we noticed that this was one of the first books we had read in the realistic fiction genre with a relatable male (and POC!!) character. Even I, an avid reader of all genres, couldn't remember a book with a main character quite like Scott Ferdowsi. He was unapologetically flawed, and yet he worked to make himself a better person.
In the end, Scott learned to embrace his shortcomings, a lesson I think we all need to be reminded of sometimes. Arvin Ahmadi wrote a book about an ordinary feeling, and transformed it into, well, a story of transformation. We found the majority of the book to be uniquely approachable. You basically learned how to be gritty with Scott, all the while laughing with and at Scott, Fiora (the bus girl), and Professor Mallard (self-proclaimed Professor of Grit).
When Clover agreed to let me host a book club with four of my closest friends, I was beyond excited—especially because we would be reading Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi.
I’ll admit Scott Ferdowsi and I come from two very different worlds, but oddly enough I could find myself relating to him. As a junior in high school, I, like Scott, have begun to feel the stress of preparing for college and the future after high school. To feel like I wasn’t the only one suffering from these anxieties was reassuring, to say the least.
I was skeptical of Scott’s character at first, as he seemed to be a very indecisive person, whereas I tend to know exactly what I want. But I grew to love him for his charm, wit, and overall unpredictableness. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an adventure without leaving your couch, or to anyone seeking an escape from the stress of college apps.
This letter was brought to you by our pals at Penguin Teen. Now that you’ve heard what our readers have to say, pre-order a copy of Down and Across here.