Four stars, read in May 2011.
Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite YA writers. I’ve only read three of his books, but two of those have been absolute smash hits, and the third was also good. I adored The Wednesday Wars, and I think I like Okay for Now even better.
It’s sort of a spinoff of The Wednesday Wars, about a character who was in the first book, but you won’t be confused if you haven’t read the predecessor. The protagonist is Doug Swieteck, whose family moves away to tiny Marysville and has to start a new life. The pain in Doug’s family kind of kills you—he has a horrible abusive father and two older brothers who are not that much better, one of whom is off fighting in Vietnam. But if you’re like me, you will feel good about the way this family’s story develops.
Like the works of Shakespeare in The Wednesday Wars, the paintings of John James Audubon are a theme throughout the book—and if you just clicked on that link and got totally turned off to it, don’t worry! They’re not something that would have interested me either, but they actually form a really beautiful part of the story. The focus isn’t on the paintings themselves but on how Doug reacts to them, how they relate to his feelings and the events in his life, and that part is really lovely.
This is the kind of book that, for me, completely justifies adults’ reading of YA and middle grade books. The target age group is 9-12, but it has more emotional depth and excellent writing than many adult novels do, and I think most would find it fulfilling to read.