Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
It's 1968. Things aren't great on Long Island for Doug Sweiteck, but he has a couple friends, and he has just met the great Joe Pepitone, who gave him, Doug Sweiteck, the hat from right of his head. But then Doug's brother swipes the hat, and his father loses his job and packs the whole family up and moves them to stupid Marysville, way up in the Catskills. Now Doug must navigate the perils of a new school, where everyone thinks he's just a thug like his brother, an abusive father and a host of other problems. He finds unlikely allies, like Lil Spicer, the daughter of the deli owner for whom Doug works as a delivery boy, and Mr. Powell, one of the town's librarians. And while the Doug's story is one heck of an emotional roller coaster, it ends on a note of hope, just as the Apollo 11 mission launches to the moon.
If I were a proper reviewer, I'd write something like, "Okay for Now is a book that is by turns heart-rending and life-affirming, and it will have you rooting for Doug Sweiteck all the way." But let me tell you what this book did to me as a reader. My dog Jack had this stuffed squirrel called Jeffrey. When Jack would play with Jeffrey, he'd shakeshakeshake until Jeffrey's neck snapped, then he'd put Jeffrey down and gently lick his fur and fluff him up til he was ready to play again (unlike the real squirrel he once caught, but that's another story). This is what Schmidt did to my heart. That moment when you find out why Doug won't take his shirt of in front of people? shakeshakeshakeshake When Doug and Lil get parts in a Broadway adaptation of Jane Eyre that Doug inadvertently inspired? It's okay Reader-Buddy! This is gonna be fun! It's gonna be good! And when Doug's brother Lucas comes home from Vietnam? Good, right? But then you learn that he's lost his legs and might be blind? shakeshakeshakeshake And when Lil gets sick opening night and you think it's stage fright, but then you learn the real reason? SHAKESHAKESHAKESHAKE YOUR HEART WILL NEVER REALLY BE WHOLE AGAIN Just kidding, Reader-Buddy! Everything will work out! You'll see! Keep reading! Trust me!
I gave up an evening of grading to finish the book, and the next day, I told my students this book left me totally gutted and they needed to read it immediately. I read the first chapter to my creative writing students, because Schmidt is a master of creating believable and interesting characters, and the voice those characters have is incredible.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, this book is one of the nominees for the 2014 Young Readers Choice Awards. It is also the companion novel to the equally wonderful book The Wednesday Wars.
This is cross posted over at (Library Lass) Adventures in Reading.