Alone and angst-ridden in his boarding school dorm on his 18th birthday, Jack is contemplating suicide by painkiller when he learns his ex-girlfriend is giving birth.
Though she listed the father as “unknown,” Jess, 20, invites Jack to meet his son before relinquishing him to adoptive parents. Overwhelmed, Jack scoops the baby up and runs, naming him Socrates. Vehicularly challenged, Jack persuades his best friend to drive them. Stopping for Jess, they embark on an eccentric road trip from Bangor, Maine, to upstate New York. Along the way—when not shopping for formula, changing diapers, arguing over trivia with Tommy and bickering with Jess—Jack conducts a funny, heartfelt imaginary dialogue on the meaning of life with little Socrates. These amiable meanderings through ancient Greek philosophy are the novel’s heart and soul. Channeled by a talented, millennial author, these age-old conundrums of good and evil, fate and free will feel fresh and urgent. Readers seeking to decode the generational genome will find plenty to ponder here. Bromance trumps romance; Jess is more scold than soul mate. Socrates is a remarkably obliging newborn. (Margaret Bechard’s Hanging on to Max, 2001, and Angela Johnson’s First Part Last, 2003, present far more realistic views of teen fatherhood.)
Inconsistent temporal markers (dates aren’t specified) are briefly distracting, but Jack's quest for meaning holds reader attention all the way. (Fiction. 14 & up)