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Kim Tomsic

Monday, July 2, 2012

OKAY FOR NOW and Mastering Voice

OKAY FOR NOW doesn't offer the kind of snappy title that pulls me forward and beckons me to buy or read. But I'm thankful the book cover displays something else--the name of the author, Gary D. Schmidt. Gary D. Schmidt is a writer I trust based on his creation of The Wednesday Wars (a fun and hilarious 2008 Newbery honor book). When I discovered he had written OKAY FOR NOW and it had received a nomination for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I knew I was in for another fun and unusual adventure.  
The book is packed with layers of plot, fascinating characters, and voice. Ah, the voice. From dialogue to introspection, Schmidt captures the perfect tone and texture of the teenage boy. He truly nails voice.

If you’re a writer, and your critiquing group says, "Well, um, your story is interesting, but it's a little cardboard" that may be code for "Where's the voice?" Now hopefully you're working with an honest group, and they had the courage to ask this question of your work; and hopefully they sandwiched that hard to hear criticisim inbetween a couple of compliments. But let's get back to "cardboard" or "vanilla" and the issue of the missing voice. If your response is, "What the heck does that mean?" Pick up a copy of OKAY FOR NOW, and you'll get it right away (Matt de la Pena is another author who nails voice; so is Donna Gephart) .

If you’re a reader, and you want to be thoroughly entertained, read OKAY FOR NOW. If you are between the ages of nine and ninety-nine, read OKAY FORNOW. It's a five lollipopper.
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.

5 out of 5 lollipops for OKAY FOR NOW
Author speaking at SCBWI conference August 2012
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; None edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547152604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547152608


Ruth Donnelly said...

I really enjoyed Okay for Now. The character is nuanced, not just a stereotypical teenage boy, and I loved the Jane Eyre and Audubon connections.

Kim Tomsic said...

Thanks for your comment, Ruth. I, too, was impressed how the author magically weaved in Jane Eyre and Audubon while at the same time keeping it authentic boy, baseball, and bullying.

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