As soon as I saw that Gary D. Schmidt had a companion novel to The Wednesday Wars being published, I was dying to get my hands on a copy. The Wednesday Wars is a book that I started once, and stupidly put down because I had other things to read. It took me a while to start it again and loved it. It was amazing! Every review I read about Okay for Now also was gushing. Now it is my turn to gush.
Just yesterday I received OKay for Now in the mail. It was so good that I finished it off this morning. While this novel features a character from The Wednesday Wars, it is not a sequel and could be read without having read The Wednesday Wars.
Doug Swieteck and his family have just moved to a new town. It's hard to make friends and Doug is trying his best to grow up with a family life that isn't very happy. His father is abusive emotionally and verbally, his oldest brother, Lucas, is off fighting in Vietnam, and things seem stacked against Doug at school, too. In ways Doug's character reminds me a bit of Holling Hoodhood from The Wednesday Wars. However, instead of feeling as though Schmidt's characters are too similar, I instead feel as though Schmidt has been able to show how universal Doug and Holling's feelings are in their teenage years - the feelings of being alone and not fitting in. Luckily Doug finds a few good adults that help guide him and genuinely care for him. There is his science teacher who offers encouragement, his English teacher who spends extra time teaching Doug how to read, Mr. Spicer who hires Doug to make deliveries on Saturdays, his father's boss who spends time talking with Doug, and Mr. Powell, the librarian who recognizes Doug's interest in birds and spends time helping Doug learn to draw them.
There were many times I wanted to cry for Doug and all he had to overcome in his home life and at school. But then, I was encouraged by the people who did reach out and help Doug, who took the time to make him feel like he was worth something and did belong. In this book, just as in The Wednesday Wars, Schmidt is able to create believable male characters who are trying to navigate through a difficult time in their lives.
I could gush about this book for days. I could tell you about Lucas' return from Vietnam. I could tell you about Doug's friendship with Lil, Mr. Spicer's daughter. I could tell you that I chuckled many, many times. What I will tell you is that OKay For Now is every bit as good as The Wednesday Wars. It is amazing!