Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Published: 1-1-11 by Clarion Books
Get the book: Amazon
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.
Cover design – Christine Kettner Cover photo – Ali Smith Rating – 4/5
This is a really great cover for this story. It’s a simple cover, but it’s the details that make it great. Doug looks up to Yankee’s baseball star Joe Pepitone, but has a bit of bad luck with his Joe memorabilia. Joe is a big part of Doug’s life since he lacks role models at home. This dude on the cover, with his paper bag smile and his unraveling baseball, really exemplifies Doug and how he’s just doing what he can with what he has.
I’m not sure what year this book is set in, but it’s during the Vietnam War which was between 1956 and 1975. The story is slow and it feels kind of old fashioned, but not in a bad way. Doug grows so much and in so many different ways during this book. He transforms from someone who really doesn’t care about much at all to a young man who has discovered something to be passionate about.
- Doug’s job – Doug doesn’t have much aim in life, but Mr. Spicer gives him a job delivering groceries on Saturday mornings. This gives him something to do, exposes him to more people, and lets him spend time with Lil. It also introduces him to the eccentric Mrs. Windermere and the idea that he can do more with his life.
- the library – Even though doug begins visiting the library in Marysville before he learns how to read, it becomes a haven for him. Doug takes an interest in John James Audubon’s bird illustrations, while Mr. Powell takes an interest in fostering a love of art in Doug. Drawing becomes Doug’s new hobby and he makes it his mission to hunt down and restore the missing bird drawings that the city has sold off for money.
- Lucas + Chris – Doug’s older brothers are pretty rude and mean, but both of them go through a significant change for the better. Chris shares a room with Doug and likes to pick on him and take things that mean a lot to Doug. When he’s not messing with Doug, Chris is hanging out somewhere unknown and getting accused of robbing local stores. Lucas is away fighting in the Vietnam War. Whenever Doug is being rude, he says he’s talking like Lucas. When Lucas comes back injured, Doug breaks him out of his funk, and Chris helps him out. Lucas decides he wants the best for his brothers and works hard to help make that happen. Chris seems to realize how fortunate he is that his brother came back at all, and that he is lucky to have what he does.
- birds – Seeing each new bird illustration along with Doug was great, because his interpretation of each bird colors the mood of that chapter. The birds inspire Doug and they become a kind of touching point for his life as he finds hope through them. This book has a lot of awful things in it, but the new people in Doug’s life help him find a new outlook, and Audubon’s art gives him a purpose and drive.
- bummer – I honestly didn’t know what to think about this book for the 1st chapter or 2. The 1st thing in the book is a black and white reproduction of an Audubon illustration of an Arctic Tern, which is also the name of the 1st chapter. The mood of the book is generally pretty somber, and the 1st few chapters are downright depressing. Doug has no control over what’s happening in his life, and most of it is awful. He can’t read, his father is an abusive jerk, and his brothers aren’t great guys either. So Doug’s life isn’t fun and I was curious where the book was going, and thankfully it started to look up when Doug moved to Marysville.
- Doug’s dad – Doug’s father is not a good role model by any stretch of the imagination. He likes to complain constantly – about work, money, anything really. He has an anger issue and is physically abusive to his sons and possibly his wife. Doug’s dad really doesn’t care about his family’s life. He’s often gone, doesn’t have actual conversations with his family, and take his anger out on them.
- school adults – Most of the adults at Doug’s new school treat him horribly because they think his brother Chris broke into a store. Not that Doug doesn’t later on do things that actually deserve a negative reaction from adults, but this initial treatment was completely undeserved. His PE teacher, Coach Reed, punishes only Doug when multiple students misbehave. Principal Peattie refers to himself in the 3rd person only and loves to be condescending and generally awful to Doug. It’s not hard to see why Doug struggles to treat adults with respect considering how poorly many choose to treat him.
- “The Marysville Free Public Library does not open until ten o’clock,” she said. “I know,” I said. “These steps were not made for people to sit on,” she said, “especially since you might get in the way of others who would wish to use them.” I looked up and down the block, then moved way over to the edge of the steps. “Dang,” I said. “I didn’t see all the people jamming to get inside. Don’t they all know that the Marysville Free Public Library does not open until ten o’clock?” – Doug + Mrs. Merriam pg. 34
- Stupid Marysville had so much snow that winter that the town ran out of money to pay for the plowing and the salting and the sanding. So the Town Council went over to the library, like it was a bank or something, and took a razorblade with them, and the next time Mr. Powell came in , the Snowy Heron was cut out, just like that, and sold off somewhere to pay for more plowing and salting and sanding. – pg. 232-233