You know when you read a novel, and almost from the first chapter you know it's going to be one of those that stays with you, the kind you recommend to everyone and end up rereading just for the pleasure of it?
Yep, I love that too.
Confession time: I have not read Gary Schmidt's Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars, despite the high acclaim it has received AND despite the fact that I actually own a copy, somewhere. And so I'm not sure why exactly I moved Schmidt's new novel, Okay for Now, up to the top of my TBR list, so much so that I brought it along on vacation. But many thanks to the mysterious forces at work that led me to do so, because wow, is this an incredible book.
For Doug Swieteck, moving to a new town just makes his crummy life that much harder. There's his brother Christopher, he of the "twisted criminal mind" who torments Doug at every opportunity. There's school, where Doug will do almost anything to hide his difficulty reading. And there's his father, whose abusive nature gets worse now that he has a regular drinking buddy. It all adds up to be just about more than Doug can bear.
Okay for Now pulls together pieces -- Audubon prints, domestic abuse, Joe Pepitone's jacket, a Broadway play, learning disabilities -- that in any other author's hands would be little more than a disconnected jumble. But Schmidt knows what he's doing here, and he makes it all flow together like only the best storytellers can. It works, in that indefinable magic way that really fine novels do, so the reader is never aware of the machinations behind the scenes.