The Paradox of Vertical Flight – Emil Ostrovski


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.


This was so quirky and pensive, ahh. The eccentricity of it all seeped into my bones. This felt like a heartwarming summer road trip tale. I connected with Jack, Tommy, Jess, and even Socrates. I rooted them on. Their moments at night in the boat were the kind of memories to last a lifetime. They were young and dumb, just going with the waves. Ostrovski is remarkable at capturing the human spirit.

There were also some pretty gaping plot holes, which I’d chalk up to inexperience. Many aspects felt too unrealistic to be real (like everything regarding the police chase and pregnancy). Jack’s parents were strangely absentee, but not at the same time. Why would the police arrest him for taking his own son with him on a trip? How could they not hunt them all down (I mean, have you ever SEEN those crazy police chases on Youtube)?

Jack and Jess’s relationship was on point though. They had trouble being vulnerable. They made mistakes, which they couldn’t really overcome. They were never really at the same level. They were swept up by love (or perhaps, lust) and wound up with something unexpected.

I know Socrates represented Jack’s inner monologue, but it got to be a bit much. As interesting I find philosophy to be, I felt like Ostrovski packed in a ton of concepts for the sake of it, and that made the book a little more pretentious and a little less grounded. Then again, if you want a whimsical flight of fancy to help you fly, this book is on point.

Related Reading

  • Paper Towns – John Green
  • The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick
  • The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp

Rating: 3/5


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