Thursday, September 15, 2011
Okay for Now Review
Book talk: Doug Swieteck once played catch with Joe Pepitone of the New York Yankees and he gave him his signed baseball cap. It was the first thing Doug ever owned that didn't belong to another Swieteck before him, and like most good things, it didn't last. His brother took his cap and his father lost his temper and his job and now they have to move to stupid Marysville where everyone looks at him like he doesn't belong. But Marysville isn't all bad. There's Lil Spicer who can burp louder than anyone he's ever heard, and the library has these Audubon prints on display with birds that look like they're about to fly off the page. But the town needs money and the prints are being sold off and just when his life starts going okay things get messed up again. Still, maybe Doug can put the prints back in the book where they belong and pick up the pieces of his own life. His science teacher says that man is about to walk on the moon--if that's possible then who knows what other impossible things may come true.
Rocks my socks: Things start off bad for Doug, then they get worse. Then they start to get better but that glimmer is stamped out and he's thrown ever farther into the abyss. But then things start to improve again and the complicated knots his life has been tied up in start to get unraveled. This unraveling is done masterfully in a believable way and avoiding saccharine scenes. Things will never be perfect for Doug, but they will be okay. This novel gets very dark but it left me uplifted with a sense that no matter how bad things get, there is always a way to make them okay again. Each chapter is named after an Audubon print that appears at the beginning of it and these paintings are woven throughout the book in the artful way that they deserve. There are many people who do bad things throughout the novel but there are no villains. The narrative voice is compelling and believable and adds humor to the dark corners of the novel. He's a type of kid that is underrepresented in young adult fiction and I think many will be able to relate to him (and his desire to punch Percy Bysshe Shelley in the face). He starts off not wanting to draw because only chumps draw and ends up not only becoming an excellent artist but enjoying Jane Eyre and providing the off-stage scream of Rochester's deranged wife in Broadway production of it. This book made me cry several times, but it also made me laugh and when I turned the last page I felt happier and wiser than before I turned the first.
Rocks in my socks: None! There wasn't a single thing I'd change about this book. Plus the cover is great! It even gives me an idea as to how I could improve the cover of the last book I reviewed (Death Cloud).
Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of Catcher in the Rye because Doug's voice reminded me a lot of Holden's (although I like Doug better). This novel however, while dark isn't really violent and there's no hookers, so I think it can be enjoyed by a much larger age range. I'd give it to kids as young as 5th grade and I think adults could get just as much from it. For certain kids who have a lot in common with Doug I think this book could have a huge impact. But really this book could be enjoyed by anyone who has ever felt like they didn't belong somewhere--and who hasn't felt that?
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Buy it or check it out today!