Before you read any further, just know that this is an instant classic. Okay for Now is a book that will remain on bookshelves for a very long time, and it has both kid appeal and enormous literary appeal.
Okay for Now is a sequel to Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars, but it stands on its own just fine. I read and loved The Wednesday Wars, but I don’t think you have to read it in order to appreciate and love Okay for Now.
Doug Swieteck has just moved to a small town, Marysville, in upstate NY. He has no friends. He is living with his angry, abusive father, and an older brother who is walking a fine line between right and wrong. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, whose father offers him a job delivering groceries. Doug begrudgingly takes the job because he has nothing else to do. But his life is forever altered when he wanders into the library and comes face to face with the plates of John James Audubon’s birds in a book under glass.
There are plenty of stories here, and they all intertwine as the story progresses. It’s an ambitious book, but Gary Schmidt pulls it off and then some. Dysfunctional family, war, conservation, small-town politics, love, and so much more: it’s all here. But Schmidt never lets it sound contrived or over-the-top. Even more importantly, Schmidt is never heavy-handed. There are plenty of laughs to be had and I found myself laughing out loud more than once. It’s darker than The Wednesday Wars, but it never *feels* dark, if you understand what I mean. It’s highly readable and I read it straight through in one sitting.
This one has been slowly making the rounds through my class. I did not get a chance to booktalk it before a student filched it from the ARC basket, but it seems he has been booktalking it for me. He rated it 5 stars on Goodreads and I haven’t seen our ARC back on the shelf since then! So for those who fear that this is one of those books that adults enjoy more than teens, I can say that is definitely not true. My teens are loving Okay for Now!
Highly recommended and definitely on my possibly Newbery/Printz list for this year!