Down and Across

According to his father, 16-year-old Scott (Saaket) Ferdowsi is in short supply of grit--he doesn't stick with anything, not even his breakfast cereal. Since Scott's father read that a person's grit is the best predictor of their success, he's emphatic that Scott not quit his summer internship studying mouse feces.

Rodent poop is the last thing Scott wants to look at all summer. Instead, when his immigrant parents return to Iran for a month, Scott ditches the internship and heads to Washington, D.C., to consult the Georgetown professor who discovered the "truth" about grit. He's determined to learn the secret to success and sure she'll be the one to teach him.

Arvin Ahmadi's debut novel is a rollicking adventure full of humor and quirky characters from all walks of life, including the puzzle-loving Fiora, the bartending Libertarian, Trent, and Jeanette, a college freshman Scott picks up on a dare at the National Zoo. Their zany exploits are humorous and insightful and nothing is off-limits on Scott's educational journey: youth hostels, hospitals, bars, even the French Embassy.

Ahmadi's descriptions are particularly colorful, like that of Café Saint-Ex, which "was for sure made of some fourth state of matter. A special blend of solids (people), liquids (alcohol), and gas (body odor) came together in this hellhole to form a state where you could pack infinite twentysomething-year-olds into a confined space."

Some language in Down and Across makes it more suitable for older teens, but readers will connect with this delightful young man who simply wants to figure out what he's going to do with his life. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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