Sunday, April 10, 2011

ARC of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt More than OK


I've been a fan of Gary D. Schmidt's books since I read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. I was such a fan of that book that Joyce and I chose it for our very first Grand Discussion. Wednesday Wars always makes my list of favorite books and now one of the characters from that book, Doug Swieteck, takes center stage in Schmidt's newest book, Okay for Now.

On a recent trip to Cover to Cover, Sally asked if I'd like an ARC of the book and of course I said yes. According to the info on the book it will be released on April 18, don't wait, order it now, you won't be disappointed.

Doug Swieteck has a tough life. He is the youngest son of a father who is unhappy, beyond unhappy, he's miserable. Doug's father hates his job and constantly gripes about his boss and how much better he could do the job. When he comes home he takes his frustrations out on his family. Although the author doesn't specifically describe the abuse, it's clear that the three Swieteck boys and their mother have endured plenty and can only look forward to plenty more abuse from the "quick hands" of Mr. Swieteck.

Because he is the youngest, Doug also takes abuse from his older brothers. We learn in the beginning of the book that his oldest brother, Lucas, is in Vietnam, but the third brother Christopher is home and willing to dish out the verbal abuse when their father isn't around. All in all, Doug has a tough life. The only thing he ever had to take pride in, the hat given to him by Yankee player Joe Pepitone, is taken by his brother and lost. Fortunately for Doug, he is strong and resilient.

When the family moves so that Mr. Swieteck and take a job along side his friend Ernie things don't look good. They move into a house in worse condition than the one they leave and the father's friend is, to say the least, not a good influence. Everything about the move spells trouble for Doug. As the story goes on it becomes clear that the move is really the best thing to ever happen to Doug.

When the family arrives in Marysville Doug stumbles on the public library where one librarian marks him as a thug right away, but another, Mr. Powell, spots him studying the original paintings of John Audubon and discovers Doug's hidden talents. Mr. Powell fosters these talents over the course of the book and the paintings give Doug a personal mission.

Doug also meets a girl, Lil Spicer, who sees redeeming qualities in him and helps get him a delivery job at her father's deli. Their friendship is charming and simple and helps give the reader hope that Doug will break the circle of abuse he is trapped in.

When he starts school, he's marked as a trouble maker before the first day by the principal, Mr. Peattie who has the strange habit of referring to himself as Principal Peattie in every conversation. All of his teachers also peg him as trouble because of his brother Christopher's troubles and won't even give the guy a chance. All but Mr. Ferris, who on the first day of class explains to Doug the scientific principle that "two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time." In other words Doug is not Christopher...SUPER TEACHER!

The book is amazing, I started reading in the morning and could not put it down until I had finished all 368 pages. Gary D. Schmidt is a wonder story teller, creating characters that the reader will love, some are completely unlikely, and some, like PE teacher Coach Reed who is totally unlikable until we learn his whole story and then, like Doug, forgive him his meanness.

Even with all of it's sadness and heavy story lines, Okay for Now is really a story of hope. The ending will leave you hanging and wondering, but for me, I believe Doug is going to be okay for a long time.

Other Reviews:
Fuse #8
Everyday Reading

3 comments:

  1. I read this on Netgalley this week. Like you, I couldn't put it down, started it at 7 and finished at midnight! A terrific story about a kid from a tough situation. I think that there are a couple of teachers that need to go on Franki and MaryLee's list of terrific teachers.

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  2. Just finished listening to it as a family. We were divided on the ending. Not having the book in hand, we couldn't go back. Do you think the outcome is dependent on the reader?

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  3. Brian,
    Absolutely it's dependent on the reader which will make this a great book for our first Grand Discussion next year.

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