Down and Across by Arvin Ahmad

I was pacing the shelves in my library a few weeks ago, ecstatic to find myself completely alone in the YA section, when I stumbled upon Down and Across. I’d seen this book on a list of YA books by authors of color, and now it’s blue-green spine was staring back at me. I decided to check it out.

Saaket Ferdowsi aka Scott hasn’t been able to stick with much of anything in his life. So, while his parents are in Iran he decides to leave his Philly internship to chase down a D.C. grit professor. What ensues is a lot of growth, some pain, and of course grit. Grit is defined as courage, resolve, and strength of character. My dad had brought up this concept to me a few years ago and recommended I watch a Ted Talk on it so I was familiar with the concept. This book dealt expertly with how grit applies to real life without making it dry or too academic.

Mostly, this was executed by our main character Saaket/Scott. He’s honestly just a normal 16 year old and the first person narrative exemplifies that, we’re in his head. We get to be first hand witnesses to his irritations and excitements. We see the internal struggles he faces as the child of immigrants and his childhood wounds. He’s witty, honest, and sometimes deep.

And it’s not just Saaket, Ahmadi shows expert character building in each member of this cast. Fiora: the fierce female lead with family wounds. Trent: the caring friend with a plot twist. And Cecily Mallard: the transformative Georgetown professor.

The only character I didn’t like was Jeanette. She’s a token Christian girl who’s a complete jerk. As a Christian, I was highly irritated with how one-note she was: racist, homophobic, clingy, irritating, the whole nine yards. I’m wondering if she stemmed from a negative experience the author had with a Christian. I hope not, but if so, I hope he and all his readers understand that not all Christians are jerks like that. Just like everyone else, we hate to be generalized about.

Stepping away from characters, I want to draw attention to a main theme in the book: crossword puzzles. I’m not a fan of crossword puzzles by any means, but I loved Ahmadi’s use of them in this book. They didn’t simply provide an activity for the characters to engage in, but they were symbolic to the narrative. The crosswords represented life and fate, the intersections of people, and the things in life we can’t control. They showed order and creativity, a set of rows and columns but with infinite possibilities.

Truly, this book was a fun read and I’m stoked for Ahmadi’s 2019 release!

Stay fly,


Have you read Down & Across? What stereotypical characters irritate you?


Beautiful People -May

What’s good people? This month I decided to participate in Beautiful People hosted by the fantastical Cait and Skye.

In this edition I’m going to introduce you to my characters from my current work in progress: 12 Days to Die. Check out my Pinterest board all about it.

First up is Arwen my troubled main character, she’s an ISTJ assasin with a dark past. On to the questions:

How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Arwen smiles very little, she would only smile at a stranger if she’s on a mission and she absolutely must.

What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

She’s been told many cruel things but the cruelest is when her father was selling her to Blood Haven (the assasin compound) she was crying asking him why he would sell her. He tells her that she’s never mattered to him. Her reaction was to close up, never trust or love anyone ever again. *cries*

What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Her mother told her kind things all the time, the kindest thing was when her mother told her that she was her life and she would love her forever.

What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

The day her mother took her to the ocean and they spent the day on the beach. The seagulls struck her, how free and alive they were. Arwen remembers it so powerfully because the next day her mother died.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Miracles Boys by Jacqueline Woodson (I love this book with my whole being you guys) Arwen needs this book in her life because she could relate to the main characters since their mother died (not a spoiler btw) and because she needs to know that there are books about people that look like her.

Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

Not seriously injured, just normal assasin stuff; cuts, open head wounds, broken toes etc. She’s pretty chill with pain.

Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

She basically ignores her fellow assasin neighbors, if they leave her alone then everything is cool.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

She’s a 9 because she’s snappy and closed and no fun at all. She thinks everyone else is a 10 so that makes her even more difficult to get along with.

If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

She’d go back to the ocean, so she can remember happier times.

Who was the last person they held hands with?

Her mother, on that day at the ocean.

I’m super excited about this story and my characters. Tell me what you think about Arwen in the comments. And let me know if you want me to do this for my secondary character Fletcher.

Until next time, stay fly friends!