Monday, March 7, 2011

Teen Pick: Okay For Now

Okay for Now

Okay For Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
page count of the galley is 371; book page count not yet determined
Available April 5, 2011

Touching, gritty, funny, compelling, and sweet, Okay For Now is a poignant coming of age story set in small town America during the 1960s. The novel is narrated by "skinny delivery boy" Doug who reminds this reader of a younger Holden Caulfield, although Doug is not quite the snarky misanthrope, he has his moments and considers almost everyone a "chump." Doug dreams of baseball and his hero Joe Pepitone who once gave him a signed baseball jacket.

Besides baseball, Doug discovers his love of art when he sees a beautiful book on display at the town's library--a large building with intimidating marble steps. The book is a set of prints by American artist John Audubon. Many of the prints are missing having been sold off by the town council or given as gifts to various political friends. Doug starts to sketch each bird under the tutelege of the cataloging librarian Mr. Powell. Doug begins to understand that art has the magic power of taking someone far away--if you can dream it, you can paint it.

Doug's family life is nothing short of dysfunctional. Mom and Dad don't have a real relationship; his dad is always mad and hangs out too late with loser friend Ernie and hates his loser job at the loser mill. Doug's oldest brother is off in Viet Nam fighting the war. His other brother Chris is a bully.

School is not easy either. It seems the gym teacher has it in for him. One day, Doug meets a quirky girl named Lil, and through this chance meeting, he is hired to deliver for her father's deli business. Doug loves his Saturday job and meets several "characters" who help shape his life.

When brother Lucas comes home from Viet Nam, everything changes. Lucas comes home a shell of a man; he is now a blind paraplegic and hates himself and his plight. In one of the most disturbing scenarios in the book, war protesters yell at Lucas in his wheelchair saying it served him right he lost his legs, that they are glad he's blind, and they spit in his face. It's hard to remember that Americans could harbor that kind of hatred toward one of our own.

Doug is also funny. His hatred of poetry is hysterical; readers are sure to smile when he says he wants to punch Percy Bysshe Shelley in the nose! Doug is one determined delivery boy--he gets all the Audobon prints back into the book, makes amends with the gym teacher, gets his handicapped brother a job he loves, and helps Lil through her illness.

Okay For Now is well-written with believable characters and the captivating love that grows between Doug and Lil is heartfelt.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up.
No language, some adult situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the galley from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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