Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Book Alert: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt

I loved THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt, but only recently read the sequel (or companion book), OKAY FOR NOW. What I want to know is, what the heck was I waiting for?!

Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

April 5, 2011

Here is the blurb from IndieBound:

As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer--a fiery young lady who "smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain." In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon's birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

How I know this book is great:

1. The protagonist. You can't help caring about him. So much voice, heart, strength, and vulnerability!

2. Everybody else in the book. Seriously. Schmidt's characters feel like real, three-dimensional people without ever feeling overwrought.

3. The scenes have shape. This is something I always strive for in my own work. Who doesn't, right? In OKAY FOR NOW, the scenes feel very natural but they're sculpted. For example, you can feel the scene breaks.

4. I love the way the lines build on each other. Lines get repeated, but it's not for lack of creativity. Sometimes it's for voice--and this book is bursting with voice. Sometimes a line grows in meaning with each use and a scene feels reinforced by the repeated line.

5. History is woven beautifully into the story.

6. The pacing. It's just right.

7. The rhythm of the sentences. I think rhythm matters so much in writing, whether it's in a picture book, a poem, or a novel.

8. The use of symbolism was impressive and lovely.

9. As I read, the words "masterfully crafted" kept floating into my mind. You know when agents or editors talk about wanting to know they're in good hands with storytellers? This is a perfect example of an author delivering a finely crafted work, and you just know you're in good hands right away. I do not mean the author draws attention to himself and his abilities, pulling you from the story dreamworld. He doesn't. But his skill level makes you feel secure as a reader.

10. I wish it had my name on the cover. :)

Have you read any of Gary D. Schmidt's books? When is the last time you loved a book so much you wished you'd written it?


Laura Pauling said...

I almost didn't read this book b/c of the cover but then when someone recommended it and it was at my library, I gave it a chance.

And absolutely loved it!

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Oh, there are too many books I loved so much that I'd wished I'd written to even begin to list them here. Never read any of Schmidt's work.

Margaret Nevinski said...

OKAY FOR NOW was one of my favorite books last year, but I agree with Laura about the cover. To me, it didn't convey the story. An Audubon print would have been great. I've read all of Gary D. Schmidt's work, and my favorite is probably LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY. For middle-grade writers, Gary D. Schmidt's novels are a must. They show so many aspects of good writing, as Dawn so beautifully pointed out.

Susan Fields said...

Hunger Games! How I would love to have written those wonderful books.

Thanks for the review - this sounds like a real winner!

Kristen Lippert-Martin said...

Read it, loved it, told everyone else to read it!

Seriously, they should hand out copies of "OK for Now" in MFA programs across America and say, "THIS. This is how you write, people."

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Wow, this sounds SO GOOD. Thanks for the recommendation!

Shelley Sly said...

Wow, this sounds like a book I'd love! Thanks for the review.

Just found your blog through a friend's and am now a follower. Nice to meet you! :)

Caryn Caldwell said...

This looks wonderful! I had no idea Wednesday Wars had a sequel. The first one has been on my TBR list for a while. Will have to add this one, too.

Saumya said...

Hey Dawn, I'm so happy I found your blog! I haven't read anything by Gary Schmidt but I wished I had written the book A History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

Laura Marcella said...

Hi, Dawn! I haven't read Gary D. Schmidt's books yet, but I've heard only good things about them. Maybe I should move them up higher on my to-read list.

Have a great weekend!

Faith Pray said...

What a great review, Dawn! It not only makes me want to read it - it makes me want desperately to write like that!

Michelle Dennis Evans said...

I haven't read any of his - it does sound intriguing - thanks for the review and your thoughts.

Medeia Sharif said...

I saw this book around a few times, but overlooked it. You've sold me on it. It's now on my wish list. :)