By Jeff Bartsch
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Una
TWO ACROSS is a funny and poignant debut novel about trust, forgiveness, and the wisdom of listening to your heart.
Stanley and Vera, academically precocious but awkward teenagers, form a bond when they tie for first place in the National Spelling Bee. Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a plan to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the financial freedom to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, he neglects one variable: she’s secretly in love with him, a fact that dooms his plan to disaster. Once he’s lost her, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back using coded messages in crossword puzzles-but can he find her again before it’s too late?
I started this book with reservations as to whether I would even like it however within the first few pages I was hooked. It truly is witty and charming as it tells the stories of two teenagers who won’t follow their mother’s pre-determined path for their future. Stanley wants to develop and publish cross word puzzles and not be a senator and go to Harvard. Vera thinks she does not want to be a mathematics professor and go to Brown. Having formed a bond by winning the National Spelling Bee contest the two devise a plan where they will get married in name only and thus be able to follow their own dreams. Their love of crosswords brings them together however what both don’t realize is their need and love for each other will foil their plan. Stanley is more set in his ways and won’t give up on his dream however Vera eventually will go to a modified course that her mother had set out for her. Their subsequent journeys eventually drive them apart however coded crosswords allow them to find each other in the end. Will they be able to repair the relationship? I loved how both Stanley and Vera come to terms with their mothers after a long deception and are able to see the love their mothers ultimately had for them. The story will make you laugh especially after Vera and Stanley are married and win a TV contest on how much you know about your partner.
Both Vera and Stanley are different and no matter how they try to fit in and develop relationships of their own they are ultimately drawn back to each other.
I really liked the flow of the story and Bartsch develops and matures the characters in a manner that is appropriate to their nature. A delightful summer read and I look forward to more stories from Jeffrey Bartsch.