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.
Thank you to Amy of Lady Reader’s Blog Tour and Booki of HarperCollins for the review copy! This in no way affected my views of the novel.
I’ve been pining for this novel ever since its publication date because of all the raves it got. I thought I’d never get to read it then here comes Amy’s tour. I practically begged to be included in the tour and everything was worth it. Oh my, this book just swept me off my feet. And I’m going to list all the reasons why.
1. Jack Polovsky. Jack Polovsky is a one-of-a-kind character, one I will never ever forget. The way he thinks, the way he talks, everything. He is certainly one of my favorite characters EVER. He won’t wow you in the looks department but oh, the intellect on this one. He talks about philosophy like it’s perfectly normal to talk about Nietzsche’s eternal return on a daily conversation. I just get him. I might not be as deep as him but I understand all of his views and I just connect to him. Jack Polovsky on his own is awesome but what takes him to the next level is how he interacts with all the characters in the story, which is point number two.
2. Relationships. Even more than Jack, I think the heart of this book lies on all his relationships. Whether it’s friendship or love or even his relationship with Facebook, all of these were deftly described and fleshed out by the author during the course of the book. And with that, I will break down each of Jack’s major relationships showcased in this novel.
2.1 Jack with Socrates. Jack can’t let go of Socrates for adoption and so, he kidnaps him and decides to bring him to his grandmother for them to meet. Jack goes and has tons of conversations and story-telling time with Socrates (all of which I immensely enjoyed). This relationship will just move you because Jack’s love for Socrates is just so palpable that even though it would be hard (and stupid) to keep the kid, you can’t help but want that. Jack has been having some existential issues and when Socrates came, he realized tons of things and we were there as he got to think about everything.
Then the prologue and the epilogue? I JUST LOVE – I DON’T HAVE WORDS.
2.2 Jack with Tommy K. I might love Jack but then I think I like Tommy K more. He’s Jack’s best friend and he’s the best best friend for Jack. He rides all of his jokes, he helps him NO MATTER WHAT and he just plain supports Jack while still being able to call his shit out. He tells it straight to Jack but then he’s not that stock awesome funny best friend. He’s so much more than that. His own issues? I just wanna hug him. I just wanna hug him for being there for Jack, for joining this whirlwind of a journey, and for letting me know him. Tommy K rocks!
2.3 Jack with Jess. Jess is Jack’s ex-girlfriend and Socrates’ mother. From Jack’s memories and when we get to spend time with Jess, you know that they’re for each other. Maybe not for forever and definitely not for raising a child but they had this chemistry where Jess tolerated (and even found it cute) Jack’s philosophical and completely nerdy ramblings. You know they’re on the precipice of something great – of falling in love – but then Socrates happened. We now got to see how they interacted with so much behind them and possibly nothing in the future for them. They obviously care for each other so much and they get each other but it’s just not meant to be.
2.4 Jack with Baba. Oh my, please don’t let the tears fall. I just love how much they love each other. I was close with my grandmother and I found my own relationship with my grandma mirrored in Jack’s. It’s just, let’s just not go there.
3. Humor. Oh the humor! I looked like a lunatic laughing all by myself too many times while I read this book. It’s short, with only 10 chapters, but it was so full of funny – scratch that – HILARIOUS situations and musings and dialogue. They cuss like normal people do and their digs on each other (Jack, Tommy and Jess) were just gold. I just had so much fun reading this book. The sarcasm, the wittiness, just, GREAT STUFF IN HERE.
4. Philosophy. So I’ll confess right off the bat: I LOVE PHILOSOPHY. I love all the talk of if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound and all the ideologies and paradoxes and EVERYTHING. Especially when I’m drunk. Jack is a philosophy major and philosophical ideas are just part of his daily thinking and speech. I. LOVE. IT. For those iffy on philosophy, I think you will still enjoy this. Emil writes it simply and I’m sure you’ve encountered almost all those discussed in here. This is the most fun book with philosophy I have ever read and I didn’t realize I like reading philosophy. (I love philosophy but reading the text and materials are just not for me. I’d rather discuss.) It’s just a testament to Emil’s talent that he managed to incorporate so many ideas and thought experiments in this book while still being engaging, funny and fast-paced.
5. Issues. From the blurb, you’ll glean on that Jack’s kind of suicidal. Then he’s got a kid up for adoption at 18 years old. His best friend, Tommy K, also faces his own problems. This book tackles a lot of problems and issues WITHOUT EVER being preachy. Without ever seeming like it’s discussing existential issues and all that. The issues are so embedded in the characters and the plot that they are just part of it, without trying to take center stage.
6. Road trip! Oh, have I mentioned that this novel features an amazing road trip? Not yet? Now I am. Seriously, you guys, this road trip trumps all road trips. With police looking for them (THE HECK, Jack babynapped!), it might not be THAT realistic but oh goodness, the adventure this quartet had was crazy, exciting and gut-busting in its hilarity.
7. The writing. Emil Ostrovski’s writing was pretty simple but now that I’m writing this review, there’s this one scene that I remember, which made me realize how good the writing was. It’s a scene where Jack was called to finally meet Jess and Socrates at the hospital. He goes to buy M&Ms and while eating them recalls a memory with Jess. WOW, that? More than awesome. More than amazing. What a great literary style/device. After remembering that, more and more instances of Emil’s simple yet engaging prose came to mind. Sigh. That scene before the epilogue? When we get to know why the title of the book is its title? GOOSEBUMPS. Brilliant. Heartbreaking too.
“But — but in falling, we fly, don’t we? We fly vertically. That’s the paradox of vertical flight. Falling is the only way we can fly.”
Wow, that was a very long review. My point is: this book is great and you should just read it to see for yourself. It will make you laugh, feel, think and all you’ll ever want from a book. It’s not a romance but it features love, most importantly, love for life. The Paradox of Vertical Flight will take you to a road trip of philosophically epic proportions. I cannot recommend this enough!
About Emil Ostrovski
Rather than give you a witty, self-deprecating account of the trials and tribulations of my twenty-three year old, suburban, upper-middle class, went-to-a-girl’s-liberal-arts-college life, I’ll admit that I haven’t really done anything much worth reading about.
So in lieu of providing you with my biography, I will recommend that you read Desmond Tutu’s. Here.
Why Desmond Tutu?
Well, I’ve always liked his name.
Website | Twitter | Facebook