The Paradox of Vertical Flight

The Paradox of Vertical Flight

4.0 1
by Emil Ostrovski

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Good morning! Today is Jack's eighteenth birthday. Here's what's happened so far—

He woke up from a dream about dissecting frogs and measuring the bubbles produced by llamas. He just missed a call from Bob, his grandmother. He's not sure she'll remember he exists—which makes him sad, because he really loves her. He's thought about jumping out of the

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Good morning! Today is Jack's eighteenth birthday. Here's what's happened so far—

He woke up from a dream about dissecting frogs and measuring the bubbles produced by llamas. He just missed a call from Bob, his grandmother. He's not sure she'll remember he exists—which makes him sad, because he really loves her. He's thought about jumping out of the window. Not because he wants to die, mind you, but some attention would be nice. He's had a nonsensical conversation with his roommate, who is still asleep. While in the dorm bathroom, he popped a zit and listened to some guy (who should not be singing) singing in the shower.

Jack's cell phone rings a second time. He recognizes the number. Jess. He never thought he'd hear from her again.

Guess what? Jack's day is about to get epic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An odd combination of navel-gazing, existential pondering, and twee zaniness characterizes Ostrovski’s debut, an entertaining if sometimes muddled story about teen parenting, love, and philosophy. Periodically suicidal student Jack is contemplating swallowing pills on his 18th birthday when his ex-girlfriend, Jess, calls him to say that she’s going into labor. Jack isn’t ready to give the baby up for adoption (Jess’s plan), and his spontaneous decision to leave the hospital with the baby leads to a series of road-trip shenanigans that eventually have the two new parents, Jack’s friend Tommy, and baby Socrates packed into a truck heading toward Jack’s grandmother’s house. Ostrovski has fun casually intermixing flashbacks into the story, as well as not-quite-Socratic monologues from Jack to his son (“What we do, how we act—it’s just a response to how we’ve been shaped throughout our lives. It’s just us responding to momentum”). The occasional serious moments—mostly surrounding Jack’s grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease—help anchor the story, but it’s a long, meandering journey for Jack to emerge from his self-involved fog. Ages 14–up. Agent: Laura Langlie. (Oct.)
VOYA - Karen Sykeny
In this humorous, philosophical, and moving coming-of-age novel, college student Jack is sitting in a diner with his son who recently graduated from high school. He decides to tell his son the story of the day of his birth. Father and son happen to share the same birth day. Jack begins the story with his ex-girlfriend, Jess, calling him and Jack goes to the hospital to see his son since Jess decided to give up the child for adoption. Upon seeing the boy, Jack takes him, names him Socrates, since Jack loves philosophy, and goes on a funny and crazy road trip to his Grandma's house. Along the way he picks up Tommy, his best friend, and Jess eventually joins them. Jack bonds with Socrates and learns how hard life would be raising a child since Jack is not much more than a child himself. Jack deals with feelings of suicide, friendship, love, parenting, and the biggest of all: the meaning of life. The narrative is very readable and engaging in the first person. The adventurous road trip to Grandma's house is fast-paced and amusing. The characters are believable and easy to identify with, even with the philosophical ramblings of Jack's interior monologues. The ramblings are amusing and bring freshness to traditional story telling. This book is a worthy purchase and should find an audience, especially readers who like humor in their realistic growing-up stories. Reviewer: Karen Sykeny
Kirkus Reviews
Alone and angst-ridden in his boarding school dorm on his 18th birthday, Jack is contemplating suicide by painkiller when he learns his ex-girlfriend is giving birth. Though she listed the father as "unknown," Jess, 20, invites Jack to meet his son before relinquishing him to adoptive parents. Overwhelmed, Jack scoops the baby up and runs, naming him Socrates. Vehicularly challenged, Jack persuades his best friend to drive them. Stopping for Jess, they embark on an eccentric road trip from Bangor, Maine, to upstate New York. Along the way--when not shopping for formula, changing diapers, arguing over trivia with Tommy and bickering with Jess--Jack conducts a funny, heartfelt imaginary dialogue on the meaning of life with little Socrates. These amiable meanderings through ancient Greek philosophy are the novel's heart and soul. Channeled by a talented, millennial author, these age-old conundrums of good and evil, fate and free will feel fresh and urgent. Readers seeking to decode the generational genome will find plenty to ponder here. Bromance trumps romance; Jess is more scold than soul mate. Socrates is a remarkably obliging newborn. (Margaret Bechard's Hanging on to Max, 2001, and Angela Johnson's First Part Last, 2003, present far more realistic views of teen fatherhood.) Inconsistent temporal markers (dates aren't specified) are briefly distracting, but Jack's quest for meaning holds reader attention all the way. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Chris Crutcher
“The Paradox of Vertical Flight is a funny, smart, whimsical, compelling read. Emil Ostrovski takes us on a journey we haven’t been on before, and entertains us the entire way. A new great fresh voice.”
Francisco X. Stork
“The Paradox of Vertical Flight has all the elements of a great read: funny, eloquent, deep, suspenseful. If you like books that are quirky and thoughtful, irreverent and touching, this book is for you.”
Gary Shteyngart
“Do yourself a favor and get inside a car with Emil Ostrovski immediately! The Paradox of Vertical Flight is an amazing road trip. You’re in for one heck of a ride.”
Malinda Lo
“The Paradox of Vertical Flight is a wonderfully quirky story about discovering the meaning of life when you least expect it: witty, smart, and exuberant. Emil Ostrovski is a talented writer to watch.”
“Shares a sense of humor and philosophical bent with such YA authors as John Green and Chris Crutcher.…But the story and likable characters are Ostrovsky’s own, a delightful mix of quirky, intelligent, naive, well-intentioned, and just plain dumb teens.…A delightful success.”
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—On Jack's 17th birthday, two major events occur: he considers attempting suicide and he learns that his ex-girlfriend Jess has just given birth to his baby. What follows is a philosophical journey of self-discovery. During his visit to the hospital, Jack undergoes an existential crisis and kidnaps his own son in a moment of panic. Along the way, he involves his best friend, Tommy, and Jess and they all find themselves on the lam from the police as well as from reality. With his ailing grandma's house as the destination, Jack begins to contemplate what it means to be a father and introduce another human being into the world. He dubs his son Socrates and proceeds to hold a bevy of complex, one-sided conversations with him. They wax theoretical on topics ranging from the limitless universe to the possibilities of good and evil. Sometimes the story meanders too long in its philosophical ramblings, which may discourage more casual teen readers. Overall, though, this is a moving and quirky tale that raises many questions about humanity's existence and what it means to grow up. It's sure to find a fan base with teens who are introspective and contemplative. A whip-smart debut.—Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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