Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review: Okay For Now

 My quest continues: to read as many Newbery-eligible books as I can before January 23.

Today's candidate: Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt.

If you haven't read Okay For Now, go read it. What are you waiting for?

If you haven't read it, maybe you're like me. I gravitate toward fantasy, paranormal, or magical realism. Though I do enjoy realistic fiction, I usually choose something sweet and quirky, like The Penderwicks, or perhaps a mystery like Shakespeare's Secret or The Romeo and Juliet Code.

Okay For Now sounded a bit too gritty and, well ... depressing ... for my liking. I was sure it would be as inspiring as all get-out, but I didn't want to read it.

That was before I read it.

Yes, the father is abusive. Yes, the brother is wounded in Viet Nam. Yes, the family struggles with poverty. And, yes, the kid flourishes in spite of these challenges. All my suspicions proved true.

But I didn't know how well Schmidt would nail the voice, or what an appealing character Doug would be. I didn't know the plot would involve a library, Audubon's Birds of the World, an Aaron Copland score, a Broadway play, Jane Eyre, baseball, horseshoes--and much, much more. I didn't know there would be a cop whose kids (all avid readers) are named after The Five Little Peppers.

Schmidt weaves all the plot elements together into a cohesive whole that ends on a hopeful note--without any forced and unrealistic tying up of loose ends. Doug's life still has moments of sadness and ugliness and tragedy. But it has moments of joy, as well. In short, it's a lot like real life.

So far, this is my pick for the Newbery. I couldn't put it down--and I can't write a review that does it justice.

Just read it!

Up next: Breadcrumbs.

Related Posts:
The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman
The Romeo and Juliet Code
The Orphan of Awkward Falls


Kelly Hashway said...

I guess I have to read this. ;) Thanks for the recommendation. I'm looking forward to your review of Breadcrumbs, too. I've heard good things about it.

LHughes said...

I've been avoiding it for the same reasons you have! I prefer pretty covers and more whimsical books and a kid with a bag over his head just did not entice me!

But it was nominated for an award in Maryland, and I keep seeing it everywhere. Your review definitely just pushed me to read it! Especially if there's some Jane Eyre slipped in there :)
Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

inluvwithwords said...

You had me at Jane Eyre. Adding it to my list.

Ruth Donnelly said...

I'm loving Breadcrumbs so far, Kelly. Good thing there's a long weekend so I can read, read, read.

Lauren and inluvwithwords, there are lots of Jane Eyre allusions, and they're delightful. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Mary Witzl said...

This is already on my list, along with Breadcrumbs. Now I wish somebody would give me some time to read these in...

Ruth Donnelly said...

I could use more time too, Mary. One way I've been stealing time is by reading while on the treadmill at the Y. Multitasking.

Sheila JG said...

Great reviews, Ruth. I will definitely pick this up, though I've been avoiding it for the same reasons you mentioned - I don't like depressing stories. Thanks for setting me straight!