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Reviewed by:
  • The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski
  • Karen Coats
Ostrovski, Emil. The Paradox of Vertical Flight. Greenwillow, 2013. 256p ISBN 978-0-06-223852-8 $17.99 R Gr. 9-12

On his eighteenth birthday, Jack is depressed to the point of contemplating a suicide attempt, not with the goal of killing himself exactly, but just to draw people near. A phone call from his estranged girlfriend changes his plans: he heads to the hospital where she’s giving birth so he can meet the newborn son he didn’t want and then say goodbye to the baby before he’s adopted. Once there, Jack can’t bring himself to let go, and he escapes with the baby and a makeshift plan to somehow make an impression on his son before he gives him up for adoption. His plan expands to include his best friend, Tom, who is leaving for the army, and Jess, the baby’s mother, and he even works out a destination, his grandmother’s house. The odyssey is more metaphor than literal, so its improbability is forgivable; underneath it is an accessible meditation on what it means to grow up and work through isolation. Jack, Jess, and Tom are each haunted by the prospect of being alone, of entering adulthood without the capacity to form meaningful relationships. Jack in particular is of an inveterately philosophical turn of mind, and he engages in imagined conversations with his infant son, whom he names Socrates and endows with an ability to call Jack out on fuzzy thinking. Father and son dwell on the kinds of existential questions that thoughtful teens ask during dark nights of the soul, about the meaning of existence, the importance of one person in the world, what it means to move through time and space, and the nature of God and his role in evil and free will. In addition to those contemplations is the witty and stylized dialogue between the three teens that recalls the characters of John Green and David Levithan; readers who enjoy those authors will find themselves at home here. [End Page 229]

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-6766
Print ISSN
0008-9036
Pages
p. 229
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-20
Open Access
No
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