“Then say good-bye, Yosik. Say good-bye! So many people in this world do not get to say good-bye. Their adventures go unresolved. But you have a chance to make everything come together. To write your own ending. Isn’t that beautiful?” –Emil Ostrovski, The Paradox of Vertical Flight

The Paradox of Vertical Flight

The Paradox of Vertical Flight


hether you’re writing them or just trying to survive them, endings are hard. In his freshman effort for older teens, author Emil Ostrovski explores the range of emotions—and responses—the end of all manner of things provokes in all of us through the wildly impulsive road trip of a particularly philosophical high school senior named Jack.

On the last birthday of his high school career, Jack receives the gift that really does keep right on giving: a son. He’d known about his ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy, sure, but after a noisy, chair-tossing breakup about their difference of opinion on how the matter should be handled, Jack hadn’t spoken to her in months. Confronted in the hospital his baby’s very real existence as well as his imminent adoption to an utterly suitable couple, Jack takes flight with the infant he has named Socrates on a quest to introduce him to his elderly grandmother before losing both of them to their respective fates.

The Paradox of Vertical Flight is a heady mix of contemporary coming-of-age woes and humanity’s timeless wrestling with the nature of existence. Baby Socrates plays the italicized devil’s advocate to Jack’s doubts about the meaning of it all in his desperate—and sometimes drunken—conversations with himself as he rolls ever-closer to his ultimate goal. Best friend Tommy and ex-girlfriend Jess shepherd Jack along his wondering way, tethering him to real-world consequences and obligations as they go careening along the way.

Ostrovski’s medium is the teenage vernacular, laden with ‘likes’ and endless teasing among the three principal young adults about what iteration of their threesome would really make for the best couple—distracting to a middle aged mom like yours truly, maybe, but comforting perhaps to a generation raised on Pokemon and reality television. But it is with the author’s audacious implementation of philosophical theories to extend Jack’s hope for himself and his son that Flight really soars. My 12-year-old is a couple of years away from being ready for some of the book’s mature themes, but I found myself looking forward to the point in his not-too-distant future when he could think through Jack and Socrates’ respective reasoning to find where he lands on the question of fate versus free will.

Find The Paradox of Vertical Flight in stores next week, a book entirely suitable for lovers, dreamers and anyone who’s ever wanted to hang themselves in a closet over the meaning of Facebook, even once.

Thanks so much to Bookworks, Albuquerque’s premier bookstore, for the opportunity to discover and enjoy a book I would never have stumbled upon otherwise. Want to give a gift to a child that will turn heads and start a discussion? Be subversive. Buy a book. And do it at Bookworks!