Friday, June 10, 2011

"You know what that feels like?"

You know how it feels to be the new kid? To live in a crummy little "dump" on the wrong side of town? To be judged a "thug" because of your brother who quickly finds the wrong crowd and makes himself their leader? Doug Swieteck knows. He's moved from Long Island to "stupid Marysville" and everyone looks at him like he's a juvenile delinquent and won't even give him a chance.

Except for old Mr. Powell at the library, who starts teaching him how to draw using Audubon's art as a guide. You know what that feels like?

And Mr. Ferris, the science teacher, who tells him he's not his brother. You know how that feels?

Okay for NowConsider yourself lucky if you've already found Gary Schmidt's books and become familiar with his incredible way of writing. Doug Swieteck and his thug brother were minor characters in The Wednesday Wars (a book you should read if you haven't already - even though it's not necessary to follow this one - just because it's amazing). Here Doug takes center stage and we learn about the tough road he's got ahead of him. His father is a drunk and abusive to his family, especially his longsuffering wife, and has a hard time keeping a job because of his lousy attitude. His older brother, Lucas, (another thug) is off in Vietnam, but he returns a changed person - very changed. And while Doug struggles in school it's not because he lacks intelligence - it's just kind of hard when no one believes in you, you know?

There are a lot of similarities to The Wednesday Wars in Schmidt's newest book, Okay for Now (which I was lucky to get from Amazon Vine); Audubon's art takes the place of Shakespeare and Vietnam still looms large in the background. But the best thing is that it's just as heartfelt and touching as his other books. Yes, this one is a bit darker with the theme of abuse (and there were times I wished someone would get what they deserved!) but it's a great story and Schmidt weaves the elements of birds and art in expertly. For a while I even wondered if the story was appropriate for younger teens, but I've decided it's perfect for them (and "much older than teens" like me).

You know how that feels when you find a book that tugs at all your emotions at the same time and makes you care - really care! - about its characters? It feels really good.

No comments:

Post a Comment