Skip to main content

Okay for Now

2012 Newbery buzz began about Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now in pretty much the same breath the 2011 winners were announced. Schmidt has had two books win Newbery Honors in the past. I haven't read either of those, this is my first experience with Schmidt's writing, which is unequivocally deserving of the praise and buzz this book has received.
Synopsis (from publisher's website):
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. As Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain. In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage.

Okay for Now is set from the summer of 1968 to the summer of 1969. America is embroiled in Vietnam and launching the Apollo missions. So much tragedy and great potential at one time. How do you convey the aspect of such a time? By telling the story of one boy, a boy whose life is tragic and yet full of wonderful potential. And if you are a good writer you convey through this the universal human experience that any reader in any time will understand, because living is tragic yet contains wonderful potential in every moment. Schmidt is an author who not only can do this, but makes it appear easy at the same time.

Doug is a character with a lot going against him. An abusive father, a bullying older brother, being the new kid town, overcoming people's misconceptions of him, overcoming his misconceptions of himself. There is a lot going on with Doug and it is voiced perfectly. His voice is incredibly genuine. Sometimes bewildered, cocky, confused, belligerent, scared, hopeful. And all that can be on one page. I grow weary of reading book after book written in first person. Many of them sound the same. Not this one. Doug becomes a real person through his voice and, I have to say, I haven't enjoyed having a character's voice in my head this much since I read The Thief. (Not that Doug and Gen are in anyway comparable, because they aren't. That is just how real Doug came to be in my mind.) I like the way Doug jumps topics too. He will be telling one thing, which will make him think of another, and off he goes. He shies away from revealing too much or getting into emotions. Very typical eighth grade boy. Doug made me laugh and he made me cry. He made me want to shake him and hug him.

Through Doug's story you become acquainted with the people whose lives touch his. His family, teachers, librarians, customers from his job, and his friends all have real presence in the story. These are not a cast of quirky characters offering comic relief or a quaint way to drop in life lessons. They are average people living average lives in an average late 60's small town. Living their ordinary lives they touch Doug in extraordinary ways, as he does them. And I came to love every single one of them.

Each chapter of the book is introduced by a print from John Audubon's Birds of America and the chapter title is the name of the bird. Doug's story is tied to that book and those birds which are unleashing his artistic talents. They form an intricate part of the plot and the descriptions of the characters. They bind the whole story together. I am in awe of the artistry with which Schmidt pulled that all off. He doesn't try to be subtle about it and that is part of its brilliance.

Often in MG literature an element of the melodramatic is added to spice the story up, because we all know middle schoolers love their melodrama. Schmidt didn't go there. He has some dramatic moments but they never become melodramatic. There are scenes that should have been corny, but aren't. It's all in the way Schmidt presents it so beautifully.

And then there is the ending which is perfect and fits in with the whole so well. In a way it hints at tragedy. In a way it is full of glorious and wonderful potential. And hope. The eternal hopefulness of youth, which is powerful even when it is shadowed by fear.

I loved every moment spent with Doug and the citizens of Marysville, NY. I would recommend this book to any reader.


Popular posts from this blog

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Favorite Kissing Scenes

When thinking of a favorite things post I could do for February I decided it would have to be kissing. I've already done couples and I was feeling in the mood to do something fluffy and Valentine's related. So kisses it is. I read more MG than YA, and the YA I read tends to not focus on romance so this was actually harder than I expected it to be though a few jumped into my head right away. (And one of my choices does actually come from a MG book. One is adult. Gasp!) The actual scene from the book is quoted followed by my thoughts. The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and a groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day . - The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Turner doesn't write the

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein


Shadowshaper  by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One. Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a


On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the YA giveaway. This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free . Book Choices: TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me, @brandymuses , in case I need to DM you.) Entries after Monday, July 1 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn as close to 8 as possible.  Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.