Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. 368 p. Clarion. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780547152608.

I laughed. I cried. I wanted this book to go on forever.

This companion novel to Newbery Honor book, The Wednesday Wars, is just as wonderful as its predecessor, and maybe even better. A slice-of-life coming-of-age story, Okay for Now follows Doug Swieteck through his eventful eighth grade year during 1968-69. Reluctantly uprooted from Long Island with his family, he faces the challenge of adjusting to his new life in "stupid" Marysville, New York- and what a challenge it is. Being the new kid nobody trusts because of his hoodlum older brother, surviving school when the gym teacher hates him, and navigating a tenuous situation at home- it's all part of Doug's day-to-day struggle against a backdrop of events such as the Vietnam War and NASA's moon landing. His refuge becomes the library, where he takes a surprising interest in John James Audubon's bird prints and learns to see the world in new ways.

Doug tells his story in his own distinctive voice, which is conversational and often laugh-out-loud funny, but extremely emotionally affecting as well. There are really high highs and really low lows in this story. When things are going well for Doug, you want to stand up and cheer and thump him proudly on the back. When things are going the other direction, you just want to give him a hug and weep with him- although he might not admit to weeping.

As in The Wednesday Wars, some amazing things happen in this book that may not be likely to happen in real life. But that’s the beauty of Gary D. Schmidt's writing. I want unbelievably good things to happen! I want everything to fall into place in incredible ways. I want a heart of gold to be revealed in every mean or flawed individual. I want for kids to have opportunities to shine, opportunities to love learning, and opportunities to meet their heroes- not once, but twice.

And then, other things happen in this book that are so sad, so awful, you wish with all your heart they would never happen in real life... but you know they do. There are abusive fathers. There are people who will judge you unfairly. There are times when things you love get ruined, and people you love get sick.

This book stands alone and can be enjoyed without having read The Wednesday Wars. (But if you haven't read The Wednesday Wars, you're really missing out!)

Mark your calendars for Okay for Now's publication date of April 18, 2011. ARC for review provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

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