Okay for Now

by Gary D Schmidt (Author)

Okay for Now
Reading Level: 6th — 7th Grade
2011 National Book Award FinalistAs 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.

Publishers Weekly

This companion to The Wednesday Wars follows the formula of Schmidt's Newbery Honor winner with less success. Doug Swieteck, a prankster in the previous book, has graver problems than Holling Hoodhood did, making the interplay of pathos and slapstick humor an uneasy fit. In summer 1968, the Swietecks leave Long Island for the Catskills, where Doug's father has found work. Doug's mother (like Holling's) is kind but ineffectual; Mr. Swieteck is a brutish jerk. His abuse of his three sons, one of whom is currently in Vietnam, happens mostly offstage, but one episode of unthinkable cruelty is recounted as a flashback to explain why Doug refuses to take off his shirt in gym class. Doug does make two key friends: Lil, whose father owns the deli for which Doug becomes delivery boy, and the less fleshed-out Mr. Powell, a librarian who instantly sees Doug's potential as an artist. There are lovely moments, but the late addition of an implausible subplot in which Lil, who has never shown an interest in acting, is drafted for a role in a Broadway play, seems desultory considering the story's weightier elements. Ages 1014. (Apr.) Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 6-9--When his blowhard dad loses his job, Doug Swieteck has to say so long to his friend Holling and Camillo Junior High and get used to things in stupid Marysville, NY. His oldest brother's in Vietnam, his middle brother's still a hoodlum, his mom is quiet but enduring, and his only salvation is weekly visits to the public library, where the librarian is teaching him to draw by using models from a volume of Audubon's Birds of America. Also not too bad is Lil, the daughter of the grocer who gives him a delivery job. Fans of The Wednesday Wars (Clarion, 2007) will find that this companion novel has more in common with it than just a charismatic narrator and pitch-perfect details of daily life in the 1960s. In addition to a mix of caring adults and comically unreasonable authority figures, Schmidt also revisits baseball, theatrical escapades, and timely preoccupations like the Moon landing and the Vietnam War. But Doug's blue-collar story is much darker than Holling's in the earlier novel, and, as a narrator, he's more psychologically complex. Readers know right upfront that his father is abusive, but for a while Doug keeps the depth and magnitude--among other secrets--hidden from those around him. He grows to realize a lot about his family's relationships through study of Audubon's painted birds (one plate is featured at the start of each chapter), and the volume itself becomes a metaphor for his journey from fragmented to whole self. Schmidt manages a hard balance of relatable youth-is-hard humor and nuanced family trauma, though the mix of antics and realism is a bit Shakespearean. Readers will miss Doug and his world when they're done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story.--Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA

Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This is Schmidt's best novel yet—darker than The Wednesday Wars and written with more restraint, but with the same expert attention to voice, character and big ideas."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Reproductions of Audubon plates introduce each chapter in this stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing one's best self, despite family pressure to do otherwise."—Booklist, starred review

"Readers will miss Doug and his world when they're done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story."—School Library Journal, starred review

"The book is exceptionally well written. Schmidt creates characters that will remain with the reader long after the book is done. Doug's voice is unforgettable as he tries to help and protect his mom. . . .While there is much stacked against him, he is a character filled with hope that the reader cannot help but root for. Push this one on readers; they will not be sorry. . . .Schmidt writes a journal-type story with a sharp attention to detail, patterns in the story line, and an unexpected twist at the end."-VOYA

A National Book Award Nominee

Gary D Schmidt
Gary D. Schmidt is the author of the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His most recent novel is The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Clarion Books
Publication date
April 20, 2011
National Book Awards
Finalist 2011 - 2011
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2012 - 2012
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee 2012 - 2013
Texas Lone Star Reading List
Commended 2012 - 2012
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Rhode Island Teen Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Isinglass Teen Read Award
Nominee 2012 - 2013
Keystone to Reading Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Land of Enchantment Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2013
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
William Allen White Childens Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2014
Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Young Hoosier Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Jefferson Cup
Winner 2012 - 2012
Buckeye Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2013 - 2014
Virginia Readers Choice Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Nevada Young Readers' Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Golden Archer Award
Nominee 2014 - 2014
Sequoyah Book Awards
Winner 2014 - 2014
Iowa Teen Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016

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