Sunday, March 24, 2013

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt ****

I listen to NPR a lot in the car.  It's something I've started doing more the past couple years, I guess I'm growing up & want to know what's going on in the world more.  So one day I was driving home from work & they announced a new book for the Back Seat Bookclub.  I'd never heard of it before, but basically it's something I would have liked as a kid--they suggest new books for kids who like to read, & interview the authors.  Okay for Now was the book that day & the interview with Gary D. Schmidt was interesting.  But I forgot all about it when I got home.  As usual.
Then about a week later I was perusing the e-books that are available from our local library to borrow.  I love this very much cause I can't get overdue fees, they just disappear the book off my device!  (I have a chronic problem with getting books back to the library on time.  They've made so much money off me there they must glow with joy when I check out 10 books.)  Anyway, there was Okay for Now in the new arrivals.  And then the little light bulb went off & I remembered the interview & amazingly there was a copy available so I got it.
The story centers around Doug Swieteck, a 14 year old boy living in New York state during the Vietnam War era.  His family life is depressing--his father is an alcoholic, & he physically & emotionally abuses Doug, his older brother Christopher, & his mother.  His oldest brother Lucas is currently in Vietnam, but about halfway through the book he returns home without his legs & his vision at jeopardy.  Doug suffers from the usual adolescent problems, but they're compounded by the crushing responsibility he feels towards his mother's happiness & some other issues that aren't so apparent in the beginning of the book.  When the story opens his family is moving from Long Island to an upstate town called Marysville because of his dad being fired, & Doug's most cherished treasure, a ball cap that Joe Pepitone gave him, has been stolen by his brother Christopher.  As Doug tries to settle in to the new town, he discovers that the local library owns a copy of Audubon's The Birds of America.  He's fascinated by the artistry & is dismayed to find out that 9 of the precious plates have been cut from the book & sold in order to add to the meager funds of Marysville.  And there lies Doug's mission--to make the book whole again.
Overall I think this is a most excellent book for young teens.  It speaks directly to the troubles, both typical & not typical, that come from growing up.  As Doug blossoms in the book it brought me a great feeling of hope in the future, a hope that I'd like to think still comes to kids as they leave those difficult "awkward" years behind.  My only issue with the book was the overwhelming amount of issues that are addressed in it.  For example:  the Vietnam War, alcoholism, domestic violence, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, cancer, etc.  As an adult it was a little much, but I don't think younger readers will be dismayed by them.  Mr. Schmidt has broached a lot of topics that are good to introduce to young adults, & in the guise of an excellent story. 

No comments: