Friday, August 26, 2011

On Gary D. Schmidt's OKAY FOR NOW




This book both broke my heart and made me laugh hysterically. Often at the same exact moment.

Schmidt tells the story of eighth-grader Doug Swieteck as he deals with difficulties and pain facing him at every turn. Doug's voice is believable, endearing, strong, and hopeful, even as he complains about everything from the town where his family moves, to school teachers and grocery deliveries.

Readers will quickly (read: immediately) fall in love with Doug and root for him page after page. Doug's journey is vividly revealed, and the language makes readers feel as though Doug himself is sharing with them the story--as if they themselves are a customer on Doug's grocery delivery route, and he's decided to tell all.

I read the book in about two days, even though Jen and I were transitioning our little man to a big boy bed and were already sleep deprived. However, I couldn't keep away from OKAY FOR NOW. The book literally squeezed and squeezed my heart and refused to let go. When I finished, tears in my eyes, laughter dancing on my lips, all I could say to Jen was, "You've got to read this book."

It's a book that is impossible not to enjoy. Additionally--and more importantly--it's a book that gets inside your soul and doesn't leave it in the same state once the final page closes.

It makes my list of All-Time Top Six Books (which is a hard feat to come by!).
(The others, for the curiously inclined, are TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoevsky, A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry--I know, I know, a play makes the list of "books", but I can't help it, it's that powerful--MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erskine, and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain.) I kept my this old list at five pretty tight, but Gary Schmidt's stunning and transforming novel forces the list to six!)