Monday, June 24, 2013
The Paradox of Vertical Flight
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Keywords: pregnancy, road trip, coming-of-age
Format Read: ARC from author in exchange for honest review (thank you!)
Summary: 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 Walmart, 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.
I don't know what I was expecting out of this. I loved the cover when I first saw it and thought, "Yeah, I have to read that!" Guys, this book was seriously awesome. It's hard to earn top marks from me, and this one nearly did it.
On page 2, the author referenced Kafka and "Metamorphosis," so I was already in love and super impressed that that made it into this YA novel. Then, as if it couldn't get more awesome on the scale of pop-culture references, he also managed to include Star Wars, the Wizard of Oz, Medal of Honor, Harry Potter, and old Greek philosophers. And it all made perfect sense. SO COOL.
The pacing was also spot on. The narrator was Jack, who stole his son at the beginning of the novel because he just couldn't bring himself to say goodbye on the spot like that. His narration constantly switched between telling the readers what was actually happening and his thoughts and imaginary conversations he had with his son, Socrates. These conversations were brilliantly hilarious. Jack imagines the baby discussing all sorts of philosophy and existential topics and is surprised that the baby doesn't respond back, so he makes up his responses. It was so witty and quick-paced I forgot it was supposed to be a baby talking, and then Jack would mention it, and it was hilarious again that he was having these imaginary conversations.
It was so impressive the sheer amount of stuff Ostrovski tackled. Between teen pregnancy, adoption, parental ties, and the idea of a ceiling on the Earth and religious/philosophical beliefs, it's a wonder now that I didn't get overwhelmed or bogged down. But the writing was so colloquial and it all flowed together so well, it was easy to breeze through while still questioning life along with Jack.
Definitely worth the read and purchase, especially for something light and summery but still with big-picture questions.