Two Minute Review: The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski

Sunday, July 26, 2015
Title: The Paradox of Vertical Flight
Author: Emil Ostrovski
Genre: general and literary fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 272 (ARC edition)
Published: September 24 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 1/5

What happens when you put a suicidal eighteen-year-old philosophy student, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, and his newborn baby in a truck and send them to Grandma's house? This debut novel by Emil Ostrovski will appeal to fans of John Green, Chris Crutcher, and Jay Asher.

On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, philosophy student and high school senior Jack Polovsky is somewhat seriously thinking of suicide when his cell phone rings. Jack's ex-girlfriend, Jess, has given birth, and Jack is the father. Jack hasn't spoken with Jess in about nine months—and she wants him to see the baby before he is adopted. The new teenage father kidnaps the baby, names him Socrates, stocks up on baby supplies at Wal-Mart, and hits the road with his best friend, Tommy, and the ex-girlfriend. As they head to Grandma's house (eluding the police at every turn), Jack tells baby Socrates about Homer, Troy, Aristotle, the real Socrates, and the Greek myths—because all stories spring from those stories, really. Even this one. Funny, heart-wrenching, and wholly original, this debut novel by Emil Ostrovski explores the nature of family, love, friendship, fate, fatherhood, and myth.

It took me over a week to read this less-than-300-page book. That is not a good sign. I can read over 100 pages in an hour. If a 272 page book takes me over a week to read, it's a sign I either: a. I love it beyond reason and want to draw out the experience as long as possible or b. can only read a few pages at a time without grimacing or c. can't force myself to pick it back up. For me, this book was a mix of both b and c and that made for a very long week.

This is not a good book. It's self-congratulatory navel-gazing pretensiousness on paper. The Paradox of Vertical Flight tries so very hard, and it all feels forced, unnatural, or completely unlikely - from characters to plot. It veers from overly series to ridiculously twee, often on the same page. It's almost unrepentantly self-indulgent.

It's drivel. It tries way too hard to be Deep and Meaningful and to Say Something Important. It succeeds at none of these things. Zero. Zip. Nada. The long monologues have flashes of insight, but not many and they are few and far between.

And it's just so dry. Boring. Overwrought. Overwritten. If I can't make it through a page without rolling my eyes, there's a good chance that your book need some serious editing.

Just because you can do something doesn't always mean you should. Just because the author thinks along these lines, "What I needed was a trump card. Something to make admissions deans all over the country trip over themselves at the thought of my attending their institution of higher learning. Writing, I decided, would be this trump card. After all, how hard could it be?" doesn't mean he is qualified to or should write a novel.

I know some people will read this and love it. They will read it and find a lot to think about and enjoy. I am unequivocally not one of those people. I don't begrudge anyone that, but The Paradox of Vertical Flight is not my kind of book -- everything about it rubbed me wrong and it never lived up to its promise/premise. 

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