The middle grade book I am reviewing today is Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt it was a National Book Award Nominee in 2011.
The Story- During the time of the Vietnam War, Doug Sweiteck and his family move to a small town. Doug has an abusive father, a loving mother, a brother off at war, and another brother who seems to be causing all sorts of problems in town.
At first Doug thinks his new town is lame, but then he meets Lil Spicer, daughter of the owner of the local grocery. Lil introduces Doug to the town library and gets him a job working as a delivery boy for her dad. Doug’s life changes forever when he visits the upper floor of the library where he views the artwork of Audubon. The library owner begins to teach Doug how to draw, and opens up Doug’s eyes to the world around him.
When Doug’s older brother comes home from Vietnam disabled, Doug finds the courage to take on his father and stand up for his family.
My Thoughts- This is one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year. I can see why it was a National Book Award Nominee. The writing is incredible. The characters are full of life, each with their own personalities and quirks. The story itself is simple, yet I hung on for every word. It may be because I was an Art History major, but the depth into with Schmidt goes into Doug’s learning to draw and Audubon’s works is breath taking. Doug's devotion to making the Audubon book whole is commendable, and a great plot piece. The author is able to wrap together Doug's quest for a complete book of art with Doug's growth and personal discovery.
Doug’s relationship with his dad is full of emotion and detail. His dad is a real scum. I can’t describe the repulsive feelings I had as I read about him. The author does such a good job evoking emotion and outrage using his characters. Wow. Then there is Doug’s relationship with Lil, his best friend/first girlfriend. Together the two of them learn, grow and face a deadly illness.
There is also a scene written by Schmidt that involves Doug's older brother coming home from war, disabled and blind. The family picks up their hero and then end up having to push his wheelchair through a bunch of anti war protesters who then spit on them. It was heart renching.
This is a middle grade book that is a must read. The artistry of the writing blew me away.