by Gary D. Schmidt
Doug Swieteck is a character you may have first come across in Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. He wasn’t exactly lovable in that story, but you are left wondering what happened to him. Okay For Now focuses on just that – what happened to Doug and what’s his deal? First off I freakin’ loved this book. It definitely stands apart from the rest. It touches on a lot of issues that can be hard to read about, but it does it in subtle way.
The story starts off with Doug’s family having to move to “stupid” Marysville suddenly after his father loses his job. Doug’s father has “fast hands” that lash out at his family and fast mouth that runs his mostly negative opinions about everything. He is not someone Doug or you is going to be very fond of. Doug’s mother has the “most beautiful smile,” and is a beautiful person for everything she does for her family. Doug has two brothers, Chris and Lucas. Chris is still living at home and has reputation for trouble, which everyone also places on Doug after some suspicious incidents start occurring in Marysville once the Swieteck’s arrive. Lucas has been serving in Vietnam and when he finally comes home it creates major changes within Doug’s family, especially since Lucas doesn’t come home in condition he left in.
Back to Doug- Doug’s first encounter with someone in Marysville is Lil, who’s dad owns Spicer’s Deli. They’re relationship doesn’t get off the best start, but then Lil offers Doug a job delivering ice cream and groceries around the neighborhood on Saturdays for her dad. After that they become pretty good pals with some amusing banter.
Now there’s one place Doug can escape from all the craziness in his life- the library. It’s at the library where he first encounters John Audubon’s Birds of America. Now you wouldn’t think a bird book could change someone’s life, but in this case a bird book does change Doug’s. It’s not just the book but also all the people and relationships that are created because of it. Whether it’s with Mr. Powell the librarian who spending Saturdays with Doug teaching his how to draw using the illustrations in the book, or the president of company that Doug’s dad works on, who happened to purchase one of the pages of the book or the eccentric playwright Mrs. Windermere, the bird book pulls the story together. It’s all of these people and more from “stupid” Marysville who start to chip away at Doug’s hard outside shell and begin to see everything that Doug’s been covering up inside. With the help of fiery spirited Lil and a many other endearing characters Doug might just decide that things are more than just Okay For Now.