Ostrovski’s first novel “for teens” is misleading in its claim to tell the “epic” story of Jack’s 18th birthday. With mentions of Kafka, Daedalus, the Matrix, and jumping out of dorm windows in the first 8 pages it seems like maybe the book could deliver a quirky teen read that might appeal to fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Cory Doctorow. That is not the case.
First of all, it is very unclear whether Jack is a senior in a private high school or a freshman in a private college. This distinction is important, but it isn’t made soon enough. Second, the story follows Jack as he kidnaps his newborn son from the hospital and basically goes on a joyride with the infant, which he named Socrates, somehow thinking that he won’t be caught. He wanted the mother to have an abortion, but once he holds the newborn in his arms Jack realizes that maybe he does want to keep this smelly little bundle of human that has his nose—oh, how cute! Right? Wrong. Jack proceeds to take a cab to Walmart, where he asks the cabbie: What do babies eat? Clearly Jack has no idea what he is doing. And this is not good for the story. Not good at all.
Throughout his “epic” escapades Jack must try to keep the baby safe, healthy, and fed, while running from his ex-girlfriend and the police. At one point he does end up in college, with a cool roommate named Tommy. Him and Tommy end up in jail. They get out of jail. Jack grows up and tries to still see his kid. The story bookends with a prologue and epilogue that feature Jack out at a diner with his now teenage son. We aren’t told whether the kid is actually named Socrates. I sure hope not.
I would not recommend this book to teens, ever.