by Gary Schmidt
Fans of the Wednesday Wars will be excited to see the return of Doug Swieteck, Holling Hoodhood’s former nemisis. In fact, Okay for Now is devoted totally to the story of Doug and his trials with an abusive father, a new school that features an insensitive principal and a bully for a gym teacher, a brother who is an injured Vietnam veteran, and his most guarded secret. Schmidt uses an unlikely tool, the artwork of James Audubon, to illustrate Doug’s reactions to the challenges of growing up. Despite the weakness of the title (and all of Schmidt’s titles for that matter), Schmidt manages to elegantly weave the unlikely combination of Audubon’s bird plates and Doug Sweitech’s coming-of-age into a powerful story that teens will relate to. Who hasn’t felt the need to "front" so they don’t appear to be uncool in front of peers? Who hasn’t lived in the shadow of an elder sibling? Who hasn’t longed for something better, for something more? With just a sprinkling of humor for the astute reader (for instance, no actor could ever be the President of the United States), and plenty of angst for the average teen, Schmidt’s latest offering is another satisfying hit.