“Okay for Now”, by Gary D. Schmidt

“Okay for Now” is an engaging, young adult coming of age novel narrated by fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck. Doug has a lot going on in his young life. He just moved to a new town, his father is abusive, his brother is wounded in Vietnam and he’s having a hard time assimilating into his new school.

But not everything is bad for Doug. He makes a new friend, Lil, who doesn’t let Doug’s gruffness push her away. His newfound drawing ability is nurtured by a kind librarian. He earns self-confidence through a part-time job and by turning things around at school.

Ultimately, the book is about the power of having people who believe in you in your life. Doug’s father was not one of those people, but several adults and kids stepped up to fill the role. It was fun to see Doug flourish. But it wasn’t a one way thing. Wise beyond his years, Doug also acted as a positive catalyst in the lives of several adults.

Saving the book from being too sappy is Doug’s smart alecky narration. The author wrote his voice perfectly. He is the kind of smart aleck who is funny and sometimes charming rather than annoying or bitter. For example, he had this to say about poetry: “You know, there are good reasons to learn how to read. Poetry isn’t one of them.” That made me laugh because that’s how I feel about poetry, too. (Sorry if that comment offends any poets. The deficiency is all mine. I often don’t understand song lyrics, either – too abstract for me.)

This book squeezed a lot of emotions from me. It was funny and uplifting but there were also very poignant moments woven in that, when told in Doug’s fourteen-year-old voice, really packed an emotional punch. I highly recommend this book. Thanks, Robert, for the recommendation!

A friend recently asked me to recommend books that she and her young teenage daughter could read together. This is one of those kinds of books. What books do YOU think fall into that category?

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3 thoughts on ““Okay for Now”, by Gary D. Schmidt

  1. I love Okay for Now! One of my favorite all-time YA books! Heart-breaking and uplifting! I bet you would enjoy The Wednesday Wars by Schmidt as well. There are a few characters from Okay for Now in that book, but they are stand alone books. I listened to a lot of this book and the narration was excellent. Here are a few YA books that I’d recommend for partner reading: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (got to love that name!), and It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. Here’s a website of a group that I belong to that promotes current YA lit: http://www.writingconference.com/wpwritingconference/recommendations/

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    • I knew you’d come through with some great recommendations! And I doublechecked my work and realized that you recommended Okay for Now, so I corrected my post. I actually thought of you while I was reading this book. Teachers played such an important, positive role in Doug’s life. I know you had a similarly positive impact on so many kids’ lives, including mine. Thank you, Mr. Sailler!

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