|OKAY FOR NOW
Gary D. Schmidt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Set in 1968, Okay for Now is the story of junior high student Doug Swieteck, whose move to a tiny town shakes up his world. With an abusive father and a brother who steals his most prized possession, Doug looks to spend his time outside of the home. This is how he ends up with a job as a delivery boy for the local deli and bird-drawing lessons inspired by the Audubon book he finds in the library.
This book is brilliant and impossible to explain. The book covers a year in Doug's life and there's a lot that happens in Doug's life. Between storylines involving his brothers (one a supposed delinquent, the other a soldier), his abusive father, a growing romance with his boss' daughter, drawing lessons, school, and his adoration of baseball player Joe Pepitone there's a lot to focus on. In some books the plethora of plots could be distracting or confusing, but this book is written so well that everything works together. This is about a year in Doug's life -- an important year, but still a whole, complete year when lots of things happen for him. His search for missing pages of the Audubon book unifies the book as does the look forward to sending a man to the moon in 1969. While this book is set in history, I'm hesitant to really call it "historical fiction" because it's not about history, it's just set there. And set there beautifully. The old-fashioned setting works perfectly as Doug, in ways that would never happen in 2011, is able to really get to know his neighbors and become a part of their lives in a very organic way.
There's so much I loved about this book: the setting, Doug's relationship with his brothers and mother, as well as the growing romance with Lil Spicer. Though I wouldn't categorize this book as a romance, it's definitely a love story and this becomes more and more apparent as the book continues. I loved this, though I know that some readers may feel cheated by the events that happen near the end of Doug's story.
Unfortunately, amidst the huge amount of storylines there are a few in Okay for Now that just didn't work for me. A plotline involving a Broadway play seemed to play a much bigger role than it should have; it felt unrealistic and a little tacked-on. Additionally the resolution between Doug and his father wasn't quite enough for me; if there's anything that really disappointed me with the book, it was this too-easy family resolution. That said, the book as a whole is one I most definitely recommend, especially if you're looking to travel back in time with a book or wanting a really sweet, simple (in the best possible way) love story.