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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug Swieteck and his family have just moved to a stupid new town for his father's stupid new job. His new house is A Dump and his older brother is a wanna be thug.  His mom is doing her best, but is no match for the force of his father, who drinks and keeps bad company. His oldest brother Lucas is serving his country in Vietnam. Doug is starting junior high in a new school where it is already assumed he will follow in his brother's footsteps. Even with all this stacked against him, Doug manages to find a Saturday job delivering groceries, makes friends with the grocer's daughter, and discovers a talent for drawing that allows him to see more than what is on the surface.

I picked up because it's on Janssen's list of best books in 2012. Chances are I'd have eventually gotten around to reading it anyway, as I read The Wednesday Wars a couple years ago and absolutely loved it. Okay for Now is a companion book, in that Doug is also in TWW, but it's not a sequel so you don't have to have read one to read the other. I read the first half of the book over a period of about two weeks and then on Saturday afternoon I sat down and read through to the end.

Schmidt has a very informal way of writing, the book is written in first person and Doug speaks directly to the reader throughout. Despite this, he also has a way of quietly layering details that make the book really terrific. For example, early in the book Doug discovers a book of John James Audobon's birds in his local library and begins to practice drawing them. Each chapter has a picture of one of the drawings and a bit about the composition of the picture (which forced me to flip back and forth to the picture as I was reading). Somehow these technical details about drawing don't feel forced as he's learning them, and even more impressively, don't feel forced as he is thinking about them later. For me, this is one of the best parts of the book, it's just so well crafted that you as you're reading you notice the terrific composition of the book, but you don't mind at all because it's so well done. (Another terrific example of this is Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes, if you're not so into YA literature.) There are other tiny details throughout that, when you notice them, are brilliantly done.

The book wraps up with a bit of a bow on an ongoing theme, but a bit of an open ending on the cute little romance.  Somehow the one balanced out the other enough that I wasn't annoyed by either (and yes, this is vague, but I don't want to tell you anything else.) Like TWW, it takes place over an entire school year, and the pacing is nice and solid.  At this point it's a foregone conclusion that I'll be picking up Schmidt's remaining book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy .

Have you read this one? What did you think? Have you ever read a book that blew you away with techinique, while managing to not have it impact the story negatively? I hate it when an author tries too hard to do something cool, but this one hit exactly the write notes for me. (HAHA, I meant "right notes", of course, but I think I'll leave that.)


  1. I have read this book and loved it too! Doug is such a fabulous character. I loved the librarian as well. My favorite of all of Schmidt's books is Lizzie Bright - I still laugh when I think of one of the lines in that book.

  2. I will be reading this one soon! Can't wait!

  3. The cover is pretty funny.

  4. This is on my to-read list as well. I've not even read The Wednesday Wars either. Shame on me.

  5. I have not read this or The Wednesday Wars but it does sound fantastic. Books to look in to.

  6. So SO glad you loved this book. I try not to be invested with people reading books I love, but with this and the Wednesday Wars, it's hard not to be.


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