THE PARADOX OF VERTICAL FLIGHT follows eighteen year-old Jack immediately after the unplanned birth of his son. In going to the hospital to visit his ex-girlfriend Jess and their newborn baby, Jack decides to let every insane particle of his body take control and kidnap his baby before he can be passed on to his adoptive parents. Demonstrating his penchant for philosophy, Jack names his newborn boy Socrates, and takes Socrates on a multi-state road trip to visit his grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Jack brings his best friend Tommy and one ticked off Jess along on his outrageously illegal plan, thinking that if Socrates sees his great grandmother and has some deep philosophical “talks” with his dad, Socrates will have an experience that will help him grow into manhood.
This book is Smart with a capital “S,” and I loved everything about that. Jack relates everything in his life – from the development and dissolution of his relationship with Jess to Pokémon: The First Movie – to philosophy. Ostrovski tells jokes about philosophers and their theories that so many people (myself included) aren’t going to get without doing a little bit of research. Once you clue yourself in on the backstory, you can’t help but get a kick out of how deep and thoughtful Ostrovski’s humor is.
The best part about Ostrovski’s writing is that he’s able to take these mindboggling theories that Jack knows so much about and make them relatable to your average young adult. Ultimately, Jack is a panicked high school senior that has a mixture of regret and elation that he’s brought a new life into the world. He experiences ups and downs, moments of delusion and clarity, and feelings of love and hate for Tommy and Jess, the only two people who can help him through this emotionally unstable time in his life. Ostrovski takes this complicated mesh of emotions and the complicated theories that Jack uses to talk himself through his confusion, and somehow makes these thoughts and feelings seem completely uncomplicated. Upon finishing this book, I found myself thinking something I never anticipated thinking at the end of a YA book: “I completely understand the paradox of vertical flight.” Thanks, Ostrovski, for the thought-provoking, the heartwarming, and the unexpected.