Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski

"But look, Socrates- what I wanted to say, the reason why I brought it up is: here's why Troy is important. Forget the determinism stuff for a bit. Troy is important because everyone has a Helen, and everyone has a Troy, and everyone has a Trojan horse. It doesn't matter if your Helen is named Charles and your Troy is a bathroom in a gay dance club and your Trojan horse is some drunk guy named Sugar hammering on the door because he's about to shit himself. No matter what you do, the story will play out as if it has already been written, because it has already been written. You just haven't read the script. That's why three thousand or however many years later there's a Troy in probably every state in America, probably a Troy in every country in the whole goddamn world..."

That was a long quote. Sorry. It's also really good, so I recommend reading it. You're welcome. On to my review...

It's Jack's 18th birthday. He gets so many Facebook birthday messages that he gets depressed and decides to kill himself. Just before swallowing the pills, he gets a phone call. It's his ex-girlfriend, Jess. She is in the hospital. Giving birth. To his baby.

Jess wants Jack to see his son before she puts him up for adoption. At first I thought that she hadn't told Jack about being pregnant, but it turns out that she was really upfront with him. He was the one who stopped talking to her for nine whole months. This makes him sound like a jerk, and acting like that means he pretty much is a jerk. Otherwise, he is really very crazy and sweet.

The first time Jack meets his son, he takes him to an empty room. Then he takes him outside, and almost on accident, he drives away with the baby. Jack decides to take the baby, who he names Socrates, on a road trip to visit his grandmother. Grandma has Alzheimer's disease, but she was having a good day and actually called Jack for his birthday. There's no telling how grandma will react once he shows up, but Jack decides that this could be her only chance to meet her grandson. Jack's best friend Tommy and Jess join him, and together they evade the police, visit a giant meteor, and even take to the seas. It turns into an epic quest, akin to what Homer wrote about, all of those original stories.

One of the funniest parts of the book is how Jack would take Socrates aside and tell him about philosophy. He'd also debate him, and imagine entire conversations with a newborn baby. It sounds insane, but it's really sweet. Jack is trying to impart as much wisdom as he can before he has to give Socrates back.

The Paradox of Vertical Flight is incredibly funny and sweet. It made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. A lot of this book deals with serious matters: pregnancy, kidnapping, etc. Stuff does get quirky, but not terribly so. The opening chapter shows an older Jack meeting with a high school senior Socrates, and I really liked that. It made me happy that they stayed in touch, that Jack was still a part of his son's life. I also like revealing the happy ending at the beginning because I know I would have worried about it through the entire story.

I received my copy of The Paradox of Vertical Flight from Edelweiss, courtesy of Greenwillow Books. It's available for purchase now.

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