Readers were introduced to Doug Swieteck in the 2008 Newbery Honor winning book The Wednesday Wars
. He’s mentioned by name seven times in the first two pages as Holling Hoodhood explains all the reasons why their teacher, Mrs. Baker, should hate him. This includes Doug’s list of 410 ways to get a teacher to hate you, a list containing strategies that became illegal around #167 and where #6 earns a two week suspension.
Yeah, that Doug Swieteck. Remember him? He’s back in Okay for Now, Gary D. Schmidt’s latest book, which features eighth-grade Doug as the main character. And instead of Doug’s 410 ways to get a teacher to hate you, Okay for Now is 360 pages to get a reader to love you.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s the same Doug Swieteck. But as readers learn about Doug’s abusive father, his oldest brother in Vietnam, his next brother a bully, and his kind and gentle mother smothered by her family situation, readers begin to understand Doug Swieteck as a person rather than just an antagonist.
Okay for Now
opens with Doug’s father announcing that the family is moving to Marysville in upstate New York. The Swietecks move into The Dump in Stupid Marysville. “I hate this town,” Doug declares not long after arriving.
And now is where the reviewer generally gives an overview of plot. But I don’t want to. Instead, I want you to read Okay for Now
based on my highest recommendation alone, to savor this book, to tear up and laugh and cheer at Doug’s actions and circumstances. I want you to share the same emotions as me as you discover more about Doug and appreciate how Gary D. Schmidt has constructed this masterful novel.
Doug likes statistics and often lists them for certain situations, so as Doug would say, here are the stats for what all readers should experience one their own, without a reviewer’s perspective. All readers should:
- learn how to drink a really cold Coke from Lil, the first person and classmate Doug meets, outside the Marysville Public Library.
- hear Mr. Powell’s art lessons in the Marysville Public Library.
- feel the tension between the members of the Swieteck family.
- understand what makes Mr. Ferris set Clarence, the toy rocking horse, rocking.
- follow Doug on his grocery deliveries for Mr. Spicer, Lil’s father.
- see how Doug becomes the test subject for Miss Cowper’s County Literacy Unit.
- meet Mrs. Windermere and the god of creativity that sits on her desk.
- slowly recognize how John Audubon’s paintings in the library parallel Doug’s life as Doug learns more about the birds, the paintings, and art.
You see? There’s so much … too
much … okay. Try this:
Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
is about the year Doug Swieteck moves to Stupid Marysville, New York, how he slowly discovers the difference between the external persona he has created and the internal person he truly is, and which one he decides to be. It is at the same time heart-breaking and heart-warming. It demonstrates both the fragility and strength of human character. It will build within you an appreciation for birds, art, horseshoes, and the New York Yankees.
It is the best book I’ve read in some time and, quite simply, a book you must read.