Parents' Guide to

Down and Across

By Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Teen searches for grit in sweet coming-of-age story.

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This coming-of-age story is cute but a little too fill-in-the-blanks formulaic, which is ironic given the crossword theme that runs throughout. In Down and Across, author Arvin Ahmadi writes teen dialogue well and creates in Scott a character you want to root for. Scott feels the push and pull of loving his parents but also chafing under their overbearing demands. Arvin shows the stress some children of immigrant parents experience. Scott's parents sacrificed to come to America and put their hopes and dreams onto him. Because so much of his life has been planned for him, Scott's never had a chance to figure out who he is or what he wants to do. The book doesn't have much of a plot: It's a series of Scott's interactions and adventures when he runs away to Washington, D.C. The characters he meets are fairly standard YA fare: Fiora is straight out of the manic pixie dream girl trope, but with a little bit more depth; Trent is an over-the-top nice Southern gentleman; and Jeanette is a high-strung religious conservative.

On the positive side, in meeting these people who are so different from him, Scott learns to be a keen observer of human nature and learns a lot about himself. Though the story drags here and there, Down and Across is a sweet and earnest read.

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