Okay for Now
By Gary D. Schmidt
Published 2011 by Clarion Books
Doug Swieteck has just moved to upstate New York with his damaged family - his lost dad, his mousy mother, and his accused-criminal older brother. His other brother is fighting in Vietnam and may return home much different than anyone could expect. Doug will have to figure out how to make life in this new place work. What he finds includes ice cold Coke, John James Audubon, and Jane Eyre.
This book was just what I needed. After recently griping about the glut of teen sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal/dark and dreary I've been reading, when one of the librarians I work with put this in my hands, I took it home happily. This is a truly wonderful story. Let's see, what did I love about this? First of all, Doug - what a great narrator. Doug is the perfect example of a young teenage boy. And his story is just heartbreaking. I really felt for him - just reading about the bad things in his life and piecing together the whole story made me tear up. He is not always a sympathetic character and that's what makes him all the more realistic. Next, the rest of the cast of characters - from smart-aleck and beautiful Lil Spicer, to the wise and kind Mr. Powell, to the evil gym teacher Coach Reed, to all the customers of Doug's grocery route - Schmidt has populated his novel with wonderfully rich and entertaining characters from all walks of life. How they interact with and effect Doug creates a perfect story. And perhaps most of all, the beautiful and seamless integration of Audubon's work into the story and what it all comes to mean to Doug. This is a truly wonderful story about the power of art - because it is through his lessons with Mr. Powell at the altar of Audubon that Doug learns he is more than his circumstances and he can become whoever he chooses. A truly touching and wonderful novel. Highly recommended!
And just to note - I believe this is a companion to Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, but I haven't read that one and found I didn't need to in order to enjoy this title.