- I loved The Wednesday Wars and couldn’t wait to see what Schmidt had done with this one.
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Summary from GoodReads:
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. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. 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. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
There are times I question why I read middle-grade and YA books. If I read too many of them I feel as if I’m not getting enough “serious” literature in, or that I’m not challenging my brain enough or.. you know, all the little excuses why reading fluffy, fun, imaginative stories are not good for a 34 year old woman to read – especially if she’s not involved in any official way with the lives of reading youth.
But then I pick up a book like Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. And I’m reminded that great books don’t always have to be over 500 pages long with tiny font sizes and filled with heavy, ponderous thought-matter. Instead they can be unassuming, with a slightly tacky cover and filled with the every-day life of a boy, Doug, who deals with an abusive father (although you wouldn’t hear him admit it), a bully of a brother, a mother with a beautiful smile and a whole cast of characters making up the stupid town life of a stupid small town in New York.
With such a cast of characters, and a setting that relies heavily on a series of bird pictures out of a famous book (added to illustrate the story), Gary Schmidt works his magic. I loved The Wednesday Wars for teaching me what it would be like to be a youthful boy, with all its awkwardness and trials, and Schmidt shows me again what it is like – but this time with different challenges, with heart-breaking life happening around and with the guts given to a character you can’t help but fall in love with, allowing him to raise his chin and push forward and find that bit of good in everyone, everything and every place around him.
I cannot recommend this book enough and, like it’s predecessor, The Wednesday Wars, if this book isn’t sporting a medal on it soon there is simply no justice in the world.
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