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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Okay for Now* by Gary D. Schmidt- young adult book review
Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
Ages 11-15 368 pages Clarion April 2011 Hardcover    

Gary Schmidt’s new companion novel to Wednesday Wars is an extraordinary example of how a brilliant author can create an unforgettable story which will captivate not only his target audience (middle and high school students) but adults as well.

The year is 1969, and high school freshman Douglas Swieteck has just moved to Marysville in upstate New York. The cards are stacked against Doug from the beginning – he has a negative attitude about almost everything, his father is abusive, and his brother is a jerk.

There is nothing to do in Marysville, so Doug visits the library (which is only open on Saturdays) and discovers a book of prints by James Audubon on display. Immediately captivated by the book, Doug soon gains the attention of a male librarian, who teaches him to draw the birds.

At the library, Doug meets a nice girl named Lil and ends up getting a job as a delivery boy for her father. As the story progresses, Doug slowly becomes a part of the Marysville community yet constantly struggles with his relationships at home and school. In particular, Doug cannot get along with his gym teacher, who always forces him to be on the “skins” side when playing team sports. Doug always finds a way to sneak back on the shirts team.

Doug’s family relationships are complex. Clearly he loves and respects his mother, who has a smile which “Hollywood actresses would kill for.” His father’s negative attitude and abuse are revealed through subtle hints as the story evolves.

From the beginning, his brother is not really treated as a person, but rather as an obstacle in Doug’s life. Then there is his other brother, Lucas, who is absent at the beginning, but returns home to change Doug’s family forever.

Okay for Now exemplifies many of the most enjoyable essentials in young adult literature. Specifically, Doug’s voice, which narrates the story, also speaks directly to the reader – asking us questions and connecting us directly to his life.

Schmidt artfully utilizes the images of the Audubon prints to reflect Doug’s life and how he views the lives of those around him. The prints become a focal point for his life, not only in his artwork but also as an anchor to his life’s purpose – to bring what which has been ripped apart together again.

Schmidt mixes foreshadowing and questions, which cause the reader to pause, wondering what the narrator is leaving out; hints not only to the future, but also Doug’s past and how it will all come together. Finally, he weaves the time and place of the Vietnam War into the lives of the characters, inspiring veterans, the disabled, as well as anyone who faces overwhelming odds as a stranger in a new environment.

There are not many books which lead the reader to both tears and laughter, where the characters are so very well developed that you cannot help but to pray for their futures and become inspired by their growth. Okay for Now is truly a book which will live on in the minds of its readers, inspiring hope when the whole world seems to be falling down around us.

Some of the events in the book are improbable, yet we wish with all our heart they could be true. Others, so painfully realistic that we pray they were not. This is a book teachers will want to use in their classrooms, prisons will want in their libraries, and everyone will want to read again.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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