Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: Okay for Now

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Summary (Courtesy of Amazon): In this companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. 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.

I read The Wednesday Wars a few years back, and while I found it a little improbable (a seventh grade kid who comes to actually appreciate Shakespeare? I taught seventh grade kids, so call me skeptical) that didn't stop me from loving it. Schmidt really is a master of the middle-grade genre, and I love the way he tackles big issues and themes with such simple language. So anyway, when I found Okay for Now available for immediate download from my library, I jumped at it.

And... it was just as good as The Wednesday Wars. Maybe even better. It was essentially the same formula: troubled, base-ball obsessed, middle-school boy makes some unlikely friends, finds inspiration from a high-culture icon (this time Audubon instead of Shakespeare), and finds inner strength in the face of serious issues (slightly more serious in this book-- an abusive father and a friend with cancer), but Schmidt does a really good job with this formula and I wouldn't mind if he wrote ten more books just like it.

I especially appreciate how great these books are for boys. I mean, I don't actually know any middle school aged boys at the moment, so I don't know how well they are actually received by that target audience (I might just be wishing here), but sometimes it feels like no one is writing good fiction for young boys anymore. So many books these days feature female protagonists, and I know the boys I taught were very turned off by any book with a female protagonist (The Hunger Games being the one exception I can think of). So it's really nice to see quality middle-grade books with really well written male protagonists. Schmidt's boys are funny, sweet, at times frustrating (like all boys that age) and very believable. They are just fantastic characters.

I recommend this one to anybody who enjoys a good a middle-grade book (FYI, you don't need to have read The Wednesday Wars first, but these books are connected a little bit). This was good one to start the New Year off with.

1 comment:

  1. I really wanted to read this book two years ago when it was getting so much attention for the Newbery. And then, when it didn't end up winning anything, I kind of forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me. I have to say, I didn't love The Wednesday Wars (I didn't hate it either--it was just so-so for me), but I like Schmidt's style, so I definitely still want to read this one.