The premise: Doug Swieteck and his family are forced by his father to move to "stupid" Marysville--a small town with nothing for any member of the family except a badly paying job for his father. Doug's father is no father at all, just a jerk who happens to have kids and a wife. Doug's mom tries to do right by her kids but is a beat-down, told to shut-up kind of wife. Doug's bully older brother is accused of robbery, and his oldest brother is returning from the Vietnam War. Things look more than bleak for Doug.
What keeps readers reading: Everything. I'm serious. I cannot possibly choose one, two, or even eight things that keep you reading this book. It is the whole package. Doug meets Lil, gets a job delivering groceries, learns he loves art and drawing through John James Audubon's plates at the local library, encounters stereo-typing and discrimination of enormous magnitude, survives impossible family situations, and somehow doesn't end up a life-hating criminal.
Perhaps the one thing that struck me most about Okay for Now is this: I have never--EVER!--disliked a character in ANY story I've read as much as I disliked Doug's father. Not even Voldemort. No kidding. The reason is because people like Doug's father really exist in the world. Villains like Voldemort--though hideous and awful and based in reality--are imaginary. Villains like Doug's father are real and all too plentiful.
Thankfully Doug learns real friends do exist, there are adults who care, people do love and believe, and redemption can come even if you don't believe it will.
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Happy middle grade reading!