Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

June 8th, 2011 by Brian Leave a reply »

I had not read The Wednesday Wars yet, but after finishing Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt at the end of the school year, I brought the book home in my summer hoard.

Okay for Now does not deal with race issues, but it reminds me of the same style as To Kill a Mockingbird in that the second half of the book tackles some pretty difficult issues.

Okay for Now is set in the late 1960’s like Wednesday Wars. We see the town through Doug Swieteck’s eyes as his family moves because his dad switches jobs. Doug runs into trouble at school and the first part of the book is him dealing with bullying, both by students and staff. In real life, Schmidt tested poorly and was tracked into a lower group at school. He could have stayed in that lower group, but a teacher mentored him and helped him with his academics, especially reading. It makes sense, then, that he draws on this experience when Doug is taken in by a teacher who coaches him in reading.

The second half of the book, though, involves Doug’s older brother coming back from Vietnam. There are some huge surprises there, though, so I don’t to give away too many spoilers. The book has a plot, yet most of the fun is hanging out with the characters. They are very believable and I feel like I know them. It may be obvious for those that know me, but I attached to the awesome librarian who is the first friendly interaction Doug has in town. The guy teaches Doug how to draw from Audobon’s Birds of America. The town is tearing out pages from this rare book and selling them to keep the town running. Doug is on a mission to regain the pages in a great metaphor of his own journey to completeness.

I do have have one complaint about the book, but it is a semi-spoiler, so I will put this picture of a paper bag face here so those that don’t want to continue on won’t accidentally read my complaint.

My complaint? The ending. For being a book that delves into spousal abuse, child abuse, veteran trauma, and school corruption, the book resolved way too quickly. Doug’s dad says he’s sorry and then everything’s cool. We just move on, which is really the only option we have, but it seems like a switch was flipped and then everyone decided to get along with each other.

Yes, Schmidt set up some of the changes, but I expected some things to be left unresolved. To my recollection, everything is wrapped up with a nice bow on top. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book; it’s just an observation about style. It’s like how I complain when not enough characters die in a story. The English teacher part of my brain has something wrong with it. Hamlet much?


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