To be honest, Okay for Now, written by Gary D. Schmidt, did not immediately suck me in. The lead was rather ordinary. It wasn’t until I read about Doug’s brother physically abusing/threatening him that I really started to get immersed in the plot.
Doug’s life is quite undesirable, in my opinion as well as his. His father hits him, his mother, and his brother. Doug is pushed around by his brother as well. As I was reading this part, I felt endlessly grateful that I have such a loving, caring family. Doug’s daily life is comprised of being slapped and punched. To him, it’s normal. To me, it’s horrifying. What kind of dad smacks his own wife and sons? What kind of brother threatens to break his siblings’ back? Those two characters have disgusted me so far. Thankfully, Doug’s mom is a kind person. In a way, she reminds me of my mom; sweet, caring, doing things for others, and most importantly, having the smile of an angel.
As his buddies were introduced, I was thinking that the story wasn’t too bad; at least the main character had friends. But then of course Doug has to move. His entire childhood is uprooted and plunked down in Marysville, New York. He lives in a miniature house in a stifling hot town. He has to be the new kid in a school where everyone already knows each other. Throughout the story Doug repeatedly states that he hates Marysville. I don’t blame him in the least. If I was in his place, I would be complaining left and right.
There are some good things in Marysville however. Doug gets a job as a delivery boy. He meets a girl named Lil whom he develops a close bond. An old man named Mr. Powell teaches him to draw. There are little shining stars among the pitch-black of the sky.
It was very interesting how there were pictures of birds before each chapter. I think each picture represents a different person or situation in the book. For example, Doug is probably thinking of himself as he describes the Arctic Tern. He sees the term crashing toward the sea, out of control, beak open to get that last breath of air, wings arrowed down, and most importantly that one terrified eye. In a way that is reflecting the situation he currently is in. The one terrified eye keeps coming up later in the story to add emphasis to the comparison. Later on Doug sees the picture of the Red-Throated Divers. The mother bird wants to fly away but can’t, and that the baby bird isn’t sure whether to follow the mother or the two other birds. I’m sure that just like the reality of Doug’s mother, who most likely yearns to leave but can’t because she must stay for that one baby bird. Last, Doug sees the puffin. At first he thinks they are chumps, ugly and fat and clumsy. But as the plot progresses, he see them in a new light as he starts to develop a liking for Lil. He draws them as if they like each other. It is a very interesting strategy. These pictures of birds represent good analogy to the characters and their situations. They make it easier to understand the person’s feelings and envision his or her difficult situation.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Hmh Books for Young Readers, 2013. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
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