For This Kid, the Worst Bullies Are at Home

I loved this book so much that I sent a copy to each of my three adult sons. To be honest, I wished they were kids again and I could read it aloud with them, like I did with countless stories when they were growing up with me.

Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now tells the story of Doug Swieteck, 14, who has just moved to Marysville, New York.

“I hate this town,” he says. But maybe he actually detests a father whose abuse made me want to scream, an older brother who stole Doug’s most treasured possession, and an oldest brother who used to beat him up before being sent to war in Vietnam.

Doug Swieteck’s voice is a masterful creation that will tickle your funny bone and touch your heart. This book is funny, very funny, but life for this boy is hardly fun. He finds refuge and the artist inside him at the town library, where a rare book of Audubon bird plates speaks to him like nothing else in his life does.

Except for Lil Spicer, a girl whose words would repel most everyone. Except Doug Swieteck. Doug gets a delivery job at Lil’s dad’s store, leading the boy to more tests and quirky discoveries. His oldest brother returns from Vietnam a changed man in ways that made me wish I had not judged him so harshly. His story enriches a book already full of engrossing characters and experiences in Doug’s life.

Doug Swieteck sees so much more than anyone around him, other than Lil, a librarian, and his dad’s boss. I wanted him to yell out, speak his mind, let it be known he would not stand for how others treated him. But he shows remarkable restraint, making me think he knew it was best. But, in the end, Doug Swieteck is blindsided in a way that I did not see coming.

Newberry Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt writes on a 1953 Royal typewriter and his works are timeless masterpieces, written for kids, young adults, and big kids like me.

Okay for Now is even better than the earlier accompanying book, The Wednesday Wars, which is no small achievement. I read several other Schmidt books and was especially drawn to Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His stories grab me like no other author has done for years.

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