I’ve been meaning to put some book recommendations up on here, but I’ve struggled with the subject matter- what I love to read (especially first-person narratives about women of the Old Testament, as I think I’ve mentioned) may not be what anyone else enjoys. And my readership really varies, from other young bibliophiles to teachers and librarians to families. But this weekend, I finally found one book that I can strongly suggest to anyone who likes to read, period:
Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt, is, quite possibly, the best book I’ve read all year. Read that again- not the best book written for young adults (which it is), or the best work of fiction- the best book. If there’s a contender, I can’t recall it. Okay for Now stole my heart and ran around in circles, waving it in front of the whole school and taunting me to come get it, and I didn’t even give chase. It was that phenomenal.
Doug Swietick seems like a jerk. For the first few chapters or so, he complains often and gives us little reason to cheer for him. He doesn’t like his new town or anyone in it. But slowly- very slowly- we realize what made Doug that way, and I must admit, I’d be far more of a jerk in his situation. But he learns the balance of Maryville and the opportunities available to him once he starts seeing the world through the eyes of John James Audubon.
Yes, like the Audubon Society. This might seem a little odd- it did to me, at first. Paul visits the local library every Saturday to view (and eventually draw- small spoiler I suppose) pictures from a book of Audubon’s work, and that struck me as a bit unnatural. But through the various expressions of birds – birds tumbling from the sky, strutting proudly, or soaring together for just a second in a strong wind- Paul finds hope and kinship in what seems to be, initially, a hopeless and friendless town.
The cliche that something “made me laugh and made me cry” is rarely true for me. What brings tears to my eyes rarely brings more than a quick smile to my lips. But Okay for Now epitomized this feeling. Though it was, as my father would say, “a slice of life book” with no big adventure, I couldn’t put it down. There weren’t any plot twists. No cliff-hangers. Simply put, I didn’t want to leave Doug Swietick alone. He’s rough around the edges, but with an amazing heart – there’s definitely some Holden Caulfield in there. At first I read because I wanted to protect him, but later because I genuinely loved him. If you don’t root for Doug, you’ve probably never rooted for anyone. Really. Without being at all saccharine, Gary D. Schmidt has created one of the most lovable characters I’ve ever encountered.
There’s a lot of buzz about this book, and I hear it’s got a great shot for the Newberry Award. Take this opportunity to be ahead of the curve and read it before every parent, child, teacher, book club, and bibliophile is telling you you’re missing out. You won’t regret a single minute you spend with Doug Swietick.