Okay for Now Book Poster Image

Okay for Now



A troubled boy discovers his self-worth through art.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Each chapter opens with an image of one of John James Audubon's bird paintings, and as Doug learns to draw and paint, Audubon's artwork is described and analyzed closely. Doug's science teacher discusses the first lunar landing and the space missions that led up to it. Doug studies the novel Jane Eyre in school and comes to the conclusion that it's not such a bad book after all. The Vietnam War serves as a backdrop for the story, making clear its impact on veterans and other citizens.

Positive messages

Doug's optimism in the face of adversity is amazing, as is his positive transformation over the course of the novel. He learns that he can rise above his reputation as a thug by being consistently kind and helpful. When he helps the librarian retrieve some lost drawings, he discovers that the joy of giving can outweigh receiving. With the help of a teacher, Doug overcomes his illiteracy.

Positive role models

Though his older brother Lucas constantly ridicules him, Doug still helps him find a job, even when Lucas is ready to give up. Doug tries to stay out of trouble at school even when he is unfairly treated by teachers and the principal. Doug's friend Lil encourages his artistic efforts and supports his efforts to get along in school. The librarian gives Doug drawing lessons out of the goodness of his heart, and some of the kids at school stand up for Doug when they feel he has been unjustly punished.


Doug's father is physically abusive to him, his brothers, and his mother. This is mostly alluded to rather than described graphically, except for one scene in which Doug describes his father forcing him to get a large, painful, and humiliating tattoo on his chest. Doug's father and brothers are also verbally abusive to Doug and to each other.


Doug's girlfriend, Lil, kisses him on the cheek.

Not applicable

Doug and Lil drink a lot of Cokes.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Doug's father and his pal are probably alcoholics and spend most of their free time at the local bar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this novel, set in 1968, deals with parental alcoholism, domestic violence, bullying, disrespecting teachers, petty crimes, and poverty. Eighth-grade protagonist/narrator Doug makes many bad choices, such as mistreating friends, cutting school, back-talking the school principal, and getting into fights. However, he strives to overcome his faults and difficulties and shows great strength of character. (Doug was a secondary character from Gary D. Schmidt's Newbery Honor-winning Wednesday Wars, though it's not necessary to have read that novel to follow this one.)

What's the story?

It's 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War, with the first lunar landing on the horizon. When eighth grader Doug Swietek (who was a secondary character in author Gary D. Schmidt's Newbery Honor-winning Wednesday Wars) and his family move to a small town in upstate New York after his bad-tempered father loses his job, Doug immediately dubs the town "stupid." After he meets local girl Lil, everything changes. Lil challenges him to prove he is not the "skinny thug" everyone assumes he is. Following her into the library, he finds the works of Audubon on display and befriends a librarian, who coaxes him to try drawing. Doug's artistic efforts parallel his struggles to fit into the town and rise above the preconceptions people have about his family. When Doug says, about the first Audubon painting he sees, "This bird was falling and there wasn't a single thing in the world that cared at all," it's clear he's talking about himself as much as he is the Arctic tern. Doug's journey to self-acceptance isn't a straight one, and several times he proves his theory that "when things start to go pretty good, something usually happens to turn everything bad," but readers will root for him even when he stops rooting for himself.

Is it any good?


OKAY FOR NOW is a powerful story of self-discovery and transformation effectively told in the strong, distinctive voice of its young protagonist. Doug is a likable and complex character whose conversational, often sarcastic tone belies his sensitivity. Readers will need to look beyond the words on the page to understand Doug’s real feelings -- when he states that only "chumps" draw, it's clear that he wants nothing more than to hold a pencil in his hands and capture the images he finds so beautiful. The complexity of his emotions gives Doug an engaging depth, and makes it all the more moving when he is finally able to admit how much he cares for his friends, his family, and his art.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how seeing the works of Audubon in the library affected Doug. Can art transform a person? How does the feeling Doug gets when he sees Audubon's paintings change the way he behaves?

  • When Doug's brother Lucas returns from Vietnam disabled, how does Doug help him? How does that end up helping Doug himself?

  • Why does Doug state so vehemently that he would never go to the library to "read books or anything"? What changes his attitude about reading?

Book details

Author:Gary D. Schmidt
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Clarion Books
Publication date:February 5, 2013
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Adult Written byTalkative Teacher January 10, 2012

Inspirational...and entertaining!

Okay for Now is one of the best coming of age books ever written. The author's strong use of allusion (real life events, people and products) paints a vivid picture of the setting of the book. Doug is one of the most humorous characters that I have ever encountered in a book written for adolescences. My seventh grade students loved that Doug was able to overcome so many obstacles in his life. The message that "Working hard has its reward" is throughout the book. I especially liked how Doug worked to overcome his reading disability. He was an inspiration to many of my students
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bymrbookworm01 March 17, 2012

Great book for tweens

I borrowed this book from my Language Arts teacher and it's really good. It has great dialogue, well-developed characters, and a great plot. It's a really touching book and has positive messages about the importance of family and friends, standing up for yourself, and not letting challenges bring you down. OK for kids 11+. Violence: Doug's father is physically and verbally abusive. Doug talks about how his father made him get a tattoo on his 12th birthday. Lucas, Doug's brother, loses his legs and eyesight while serving in the war. Lil is shown getting very sick and has to go to the hospital. Mentioning of school fights. Sex: Doug and Lil become a couple, and Lil gives him a kiss on the cheek. Language: Use of the word "freaking" Consumerism: Mentioning of Coke. Drinking: Doug's father and his friend are depicted as alcholics.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written bynoveleater September 1, 2011

Touching sequel to The Wednesday Wars

Okay For Now is wonderful, touching, beautifully written, and as Doug would say: terrific. The story follows a boy named Doug Swieteck who deals with an abusive father, and quiet mother, and a two brothers, one a jerk, the other just returned from the Vietnam. The story takes place in upstate New York during the year 1928, so it does count as a historical novel. The story is veered for younger readers, but some of the content may be questionable for a young child. The main character is often slugged by his own father, and in one chapter their is a retelling of a time when Doug's father brings him to a tattoo store, and is forced to get a tattoo that is offensive and mean. The father comes home, most of the time drunk. He also smokes. Lil and Doug drink coke throughout the novel. In one scene, two kids get into one bed, and their is a picture of two kids kissing. Their is a description of burns, and one character's legs were burned off. What also makes this book wonderful, is that every chapter starts with beautiful paintings of birds from John James Audubon's Birds of America. This story does contain some information about Jane Eyre, that may inspire some readers to find out more. The messages are wonderful, and the finale few words will give you goosebumps. I suggest this book for anyone who loves to read, or who doesn't. It is worth the read. Enjoy!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking