Okay for Now
|Author||Gary D. Schmidt|
|Published||April 5, 2011 (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)|
|Preceded by||The Wednesday Wars|
|Followed by||Just Like That|
This article needs an improved plot summary. (September 2016)
Douglas "Doug" Swieteck is a fourteen-year-old boy living somewhere on Long Island in 1968 during the Vietnam War. After Doug's dad is fired for mouthing off to his boss, the Swietecks move to the small town of Marysville, NY, where Doug feels out of place and unwelcome.
Underneath the glass was this book, a huge book, a huge, huge book. Its pages were longer than a good-sized baseball bat. I'm not lying. And on the whole page there was only one picture. Of a bird.
I couldn't take my eyes off it.
He was all alone, and he looked like he was falling out of the sky and into this cold, green sea. His wings were back, his tail feathers were back, and his neck was pulled around as if he was trying to turn but couldn't. His eyes were round and bright and afraid. And his beak was opened a little bit, probably because he was trying to suck in some air before he crashed into the water. The sky around him was dark, like the air was too heavy to fly in.
This bird was falling, and there wasn't a single thing in the world that cared at all.
It was the most terrifying picture I'd ever seen.
The most beautiful.
— Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now (2011)
In Marysville, Doug is fascinated by The Birds of America, a book illustrated by John James Audubon, on display under glass at the local library. Doug starts to learn how to draw, starting with a copy of Audubon's Arctic Tern under the tutelage of Mr. Powell, a librarian. Doug also meets a girl named Lillian "Lil" Spicer, on whom he eventually has a crush. Lil's father owns a deli, and hires Doug as a delivery boy, which lets him get to know other residents of Marysville. Around Christmas, Doug's oldest brother Lucas returns home from Vietnam with permanent injuries, and Doug helps him adjust. As the novel progresses, Doug faces issues such as his father's abuse, problems at school, and the illness of his friend, with maturity and confidence that he develops through learning to draw and his interactions with the townsfolk.
Each chapter is named for a different plate from The Birds of America. In order, they are:
The Arctic Tern, plate #250
The Red-Throated Diver, #202
The Large-Billed Puffin, #293
The Black-Backed Gull, #241
The Yellow Shank, #288
The Snowy Heron, #242
The Forked-Tailed Petrel, #260
The Brown Pelican, #251
The Great Esquimaux Curlew, #237
Schmidt stated "I have always made fun of authors who say they had to write a sequel because there were characters they couldn’t get out of their heads, but now I have to take back all those truly horrible things I said." The novel was initially drafted from a third-person perspective, and Schmidt struggled with telling the story, but after switching to a first-person narration, Schmidt wrote on "my third start on this stupid novel, it was Doug telling the story and it was right." Like Doug, Schmidt was underestimated by his teachers until one taught him to read.
Writing for The New York Times, author Richard Peck said the novel "is crowded with more incident and empowerment than any eighth-grade year or novel can quite contain" but praised its emotional weight. Augusta Scattergood, reviewing for the Christian Science Monitor, called the novel "often heartbreaking but always funny" and the audience "will also have discovered something important about the capacity for love and the power of resiliency" by the end of the novel.
Okay for Now was on The New York Times Best Seller list and an Amazon Book of the Year. The book also was a Children's Choice award winner. The novel was named a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in October 2011.
- Corbett, Sue (28 April 2011). "What's New: Six Spring Sequels". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "With Audubon's Help, Beat-Up Kid Is 'Okay For Now'". National Public Radio. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Gary Schmidt (25 February 2013). "With Audubon's Help, Beat-Up Kid Is 'Okay For Now'". National Public Radio (Interview). Interviewed by Michele Norris. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Peck, Richard (May 12, 2011). "An Outsider's Comeback". Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- Scattergood, Augusta (9 May 2011). "Okay for Now". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "2011 Best Books of the Year : Gary D. Schmidt". Amazon. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
- Anderson, Myrna (May 17, 2012). "Schmidt is children's choice". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
- "NBA Finalists Announced for Young People's Literature". Publishers Weekly. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Gary Schmidt reading from his YPL book Okay for Now at the 2011 NBA Finalists Reading on Vimeo
- "Gary D. Schmidt: Okay for Now". National Book Foundation. 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Bird, Elizabeth (12 February 2011). "Review of the Day: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt". A fuse 8 Production. School Library Journal. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Okay for Now (starred)". Kirkus Reviews. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Okay for Now". Publishers Weekly. April 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Springstubb, Tricia (7 May 2011). "'Okay for Now' by Gary D. Schmidt is a coming-of-age novel that soars". The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- Peck, Richard (12 May 2011). "An Outsider's Comeback". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- Grilo, Ana (August 18, 2011). "Book Review for 'Okay for Now'". The Book Smugglers. Retrieved August 27, 2016.