The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski
Published: September 24, 2013 by Greenwillow Books
Format/Source: Paperback ARC from BEA
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Humor
Pages: 272 pages
What happens when you put a suicidal eighteen-year-old philosophy student, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, and his newborn baby in a truck and send them to Grandma’s house? This debut novel by Emil Ostrovski will appeal to fans of John Green, Chris Crutcher, and Jay Asher.
On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, philosophy student and high school senior Jack Polovsky is somewhat seriously thinking of suicide when his cell phone rings. Jack’s ex-girlfriend, Jess, has given birth, and Jack is the father. Jack hasn’t spoken with Jess in about nine months—and she wants him to see the baby before he is adopted. The new teenage father kidnaps the baby, names him Socrates, stocks up on baby supplies at Wal-Mart, and hits the road with his best friend, Tommy, and the ex-girlfriend. As they head to Grandma’s house (eluding the police at every turn), Jack tells baby Socrates about Homer, Troy, Aristotle, the real Socrates, and the Greek myths—because all stories spring from those stories, really. Even this one. Funny, heart-wrenching, and wholly original, this debut novel by Emil Ostrovski explores the nature of family, love, friendship, fate, fatherhood, and myth.
I took a philosophy class once. I would feel the smallest glimmer of understanding before the class was dismissed, only to feel dense in just an hour. But I can dimly remember the kind of questioning dialogue that was present in some of those great Greek works of philosophy.
In a lot of ways, The Paradox of Vertical Flight is that philosophy book, a conversation between Plato and Socrates, where Plato is an unstable teenage boy and Socrates is his newborn son.
Typically, an outrageous plot or premise would be enough for me to eye-roll or perhaps not want to pick it up. I do not find most comedians funny—the antics of some comedic movies are so outrageous to me that I instead find myself more confused than amused. But there was this element of the ‘real’ throughout Paradox that really made it both humorous and resonating.
By reading this book, I was able to understand some of those concepts my professor tried to get us to ponder (at least I understood them as I was reading it—philosophy for me is a very slippery substance). Beyond that, I was curious to know how the story would end. The adventure was interesting and at times, very relatable despite being so incredible.
For a short read with a big impact, this book is great for someone looking for a thought-provoking comedy of errors.