While his parents travel to Iran to visit his ailing grandfather, 16-year-old Scott Ferdowsi quits his boring summer lab internship in Philadelphia and secretly travels to D.C., seeking answers about his (in)ability to succeed.
Saaket (the Iranian name he does not like) seeks advice from the expert on the topic, a Georgetown University psychology professor studying grit. His two-day trip grows into a four-week adventure in which he befriends the peculiar, sincere, and often reckless Fiora, a college student from a troubled family, and the generous and politically ambitious Trent, whose coming out as gay cut him off from his Southern family. Both introduce him to drinking, networking, and crossword puzzles. Scott also briefly dates Jeanette, a politically conservative college student whose xenophobic attitudes almost destroy their newly formed friendship. Scott’s journey touches on his relationship with his overprotective parents, Muslim identity, being a minority in modern-day America, and his Iranian heritage. In this highly original novel, Scott’s insights are reinforced through the personal stories of his new friends; only Jeanette’s character does not rise to the same level of sophistication. He finds out in D.C. that he had grit all along, as he succeeds in convincing the professor to take him on as a research intern and even supports himself financially for the first time, goals far beyond his original plan.
An engaging debut novel about self-discovery. (Fiction. 14-18)