Spoiler Warning

Book reviews and discussions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

OKAY FOR NOW discussion...

Better than okay, in fact, amazing.

I already reviewed this on Goodreads, but I just want to add...

After reading scores of YA and MG novels (in and out of this book club), I've come to realize how difficult it can be for a writer to give their young protagonist an authentic voice. Too much angst can come across whiny and annoying, giving birth to an unlikable character. Yes, birth. This problem has killed many a YA book for me (I'm not naming names Graceling ahem). Too little angst, and the character can seem inauthentic or 2-dimensional. It's a fine line, mi amigos. In my professional book club opinion, Doug Swieteck walked that fine line perfectly, not a single misstep. Doug is what made this book so great. Because if all that stuff would have happened to some random kid that didn't seem so dang real, I wouldn't have cared half as much.

Katniss Everdeen
Captain Peter Blood
Gen
Doug Swieteck

Let's discuss now, shall we?

171 comments:

Jenny ESP said...

Okay for now, let's get this party started. By party, I mean discussion. What'd you gize think, eh?

Amanda said...

Ready.

Amanda said...

It was okay.

Amanda said...

Ok, I'm lying.

Amanda said...

But you would lie too if you were 34 and enjoyed a book about a 13 year old boy.

Jenny ESP said...

I'll start by saying that I loved the writing. It was brilliant. I loved how it was in Doug's POV, yet there were so many things we didn't find out about him until much later in the book. Like we thought we knew him, but we really didn't KNOW him, ya know? Reminded me of Gen in The Thief.

Memzy said...

Jenny and Gen sitting in a tree....

But srsly, I totally agree.

Jenny ESP said...

Did Bella end up listening to it? Did she like it?

Memzy said...

Is it terrible of me to hate the dad with a passion and yet kind of feel bad for him at the end?

Jenny ESP said...

Keep singing that song about me and Gen, Memzy. I like it.

Memzy said...

I'm making Riley read it right now. Just started cuz he was finishing another book. ::pins and needles::

Landee said...

I was so glad to find out the reason Doug wanted to be shirts was just some sissy tattoo. I was worried it was going to be cigarette burns or something worse.

Amanda said...

I haven't read The Thief. I'll put that on my to-read list. Yes, loved that it was from his point of view yet very fresh and new throughout the entire book. I also loved that he wasn't an honest narrator, that you could see through his lies. I loved that. I knew he wasn't telling me everything how it really was, just how he saw it, or how he wanted me to see it.

Jenny ESP said...

I know what you mean, M. He was irredeemable, yet I felt sorry for him.

Memzy said...

Speaking of The Thief I feel like it's time for me to read that again.

Amanda said...

Or how it was presented to him. Like the lies his dad or brother would tell him.

Memzy said...

The tattoo story brought me to more-than-crocodile tears

Jenny ESP said...

I also loved how Doug never called his one brother by his name until his brother started acting like a human being.

Memzy said...

And the mom? Bless her sweet little water fight in the kitchen heart.

Landee said...

That was subtle and awesome. All of a sudden I was like Christopher? Hm.

Landee said...

The last time I was a chump (I just remembered) was when the police guy described Christopher in a heap of kids asleep. Thug my A.

Amanda said...

Bella is still listening to it. She likes it a lot. Which is AMAZING.

I have to admit that after reading "A Child Called It" that I was afraid he had a stab wound under his shirt. So glad it was only a tattoo but oh, I felt so sorry for him. What a jerk dad!

Jenny ESP said...

I was expecting bruises shaped like Texas or something, and then BAM! The terrible-awful. Heartbreaking. And then how unsympathetic his coach was? That was painful to read.

Memzy said...

Yup. Now the tears are threatening again.

Landee said...

The coach and Principal Peattie were jags. But redeemed themselves later.

Landee said...

Sadly, losing his legs was the best thing that ever happened to Lucas. I'm not lying.

Jenny ESP said...

Hmm. The tat to me sounds way worse than a measly stab wound. It's deep emotional abuse. And completely unexpected.

Memzy said...

Total doosh. Yet you kinda felt bad for him. That's one thing I love in an author is the ability to evoke multiple emotions for a character all at once. Cuz isn't that how real life people are? That a person can be such a complete loser and you can still have a tender little spot in your heart of understanding for them?

Amanda said...

There's not enough redeemed characters today. What a nice change.

Landee said...

Ernie Eco is burning in hell right now. No question.

Memzy said...

The thing that really got me pizzed, besides all the crap that kid had to go through, was how the mom could let it happen? How could she let her loser husband do that stuff to her kids?

Landee said...

This is also a fantastic lesson in "you never know what's going on in someone's life." How he acted in school was directly related to what was going on at home at the time. People need to be more understanding. Loved that science teacher.

Jenny ESP said...

I want Cord to read it, too, but don't trust him with my Kindle. Gonna have to go to the library or something. Check out the bird plates while we're there.

Amanda said...

I love how understated the mom was. So much complexity there and yet so simple in the writing.

Memzy said...

Riley reads on my kindle all the time. It's a nice system actually.

Jenny ESP said...

Yes, that was the best lesson I took for Doug. Be more understanding, don't jump to conclusions, etc. Loved that.

Landee said...

Just FYI, I skipped sunday school today and went out in my car to read this. So what?

Memzy said...

I like that Landee, I really do. Especially since Riley is having some serious issues with a kid in our ward being a bully/doosh right now. I'm hoping he will get that message from the book.

Jenny ESP said...

*from doug

Memzy said...

That was in reference to your prior comment. Not the sunday school one. Tho I applaud you for that.

Jenny ESP said...

I read books all the time on my iphone kindle ap during church. I'm serious.

Landee said...

We are to assume Lil doesn't die right? And what'd she have...leukemia?

Memzy said...

We'd better assume that. I thought cancer.

Amanda said...

I listened to this on audio book. I highly recommend!

Amanda said...

Do I need to worry about you folks ending up with Ernie Echo in you know where?

Jenny ESP said...

The mom frustrated me. To put it lightly.

Jenny ESP said...

At times, I found her more despicable than the dad.

Landee said...

Nah... Ernie will be in high security you-know-where. I'll just be where the party is.

Jenny ESP said...

I loved Chris's transformation, and the coach's. Very satisfying.

Amanda said...

Did you guys guess right off that the person stealing in the community was Ernie Echo? I wondered if it might be his dad when the tools shop was robbed.

Jenny ESP said...

hahaha @ Landee

Jenny ESP said...

I mean haha WITH Landee

Landee said...

I have a hard time being mad at the mom. She did what she could with what she had. Who knows what kind of background she came from? She showed enough love for Doug and had zero control.

Jenny ESP said...

I figgered it wasn't really Christopher. Pretty clear the dad and Ernie were up to no good.

Landee said...

I thought it was the dad too. I really did.

Jenny ESP said...

I'm also pretty sure Lil lives. I'm so glad he left it open like that. Usually that sort of thing drives me crazy. But either alternative would have ruined the book for me.

Memzy said...

Sort of off subject, have you guys seen/heard this new Coldplay song?

http://youtu.be/Cxwp_oT_sYI

Landee said...

Flem would call this a failure of the early educational system, btw. How did someone as smart and bright as Doug get through to the 8th grade without being able to read?

eekareek said...

CRAP!!!! I'm late

Amanda said...

Really? I didn't see that at all. I loved the mom. I saw her as a victim just as much as Doug. She's married to an abusive drunk who can't keep a job and moves them from town to town. I felt sorry for her. Broke my heart when jerk-dad broke all her dishes. I can't imagine what he was like in the bedroom. Poor woman. I thought she was a good mother despite her horrible marriage.

Amanda said...

I also liked that she never gave up hope. She was tough and she hung in there for better and the worse. I'm glad in the end her husband finally came around to appreciating his family and doing the right thing. I also like that the neighbors gave her flowers and plant, so sweet. Obviously those in the community liked her.

Jenny ESP said...

See, I thought the mom did have control, but it was easier for her to not take action. I sympathize with her, but there are not excuses when it comes to protecting your kid.

Landee said...

Agreed Amanda.

Eeka! Nice to have you, late and all, you chump.

Memzy said...

I saw the mom as weak. Yeah, she had a crappy life but you can stand up for your kids. I'd rather get beat than watch my children's father tattoo my child as a joke like that. I'd be out the door so fast. But then again, it wouldn't be this book sooooo....

Landee said...

I don't think that back in the 60s there were places to go like there are today. For all we know she has no extended family to go to. She had no one but him and her boys.

Amanda said...

Hi Eek

Jenny ESP said...

I know! Why is illiteracy so heartbreaking? I squeezed out a tear or two at that part.

Landee said...

He told her he was taking Doug out for a birthday surprise. She didn't know what he was doing.

Memzy said...

Just put that song on another tab playing so we can all be listening to the same song. It'll be like an IRL book club! Minus the finger foods.

Jenny ESP said...

What'd ya think, EEK?

eekareek said...

The mom made me angry too.

Memzy said...

True she didn't know. But if my son came home with a tattoo I'd be out the door.

Jenny ESP said...

Done, Memzy.

Memzy said...

Extended family or not, I guess I'd be poor and even homeless maybe. But can you imagine the permanent damage that will put on that kid his whole life?

Jenny ESP said...

I'd have that tat removed asap.

Jenny ESP said...

I'd have that tat removed asap.

Amanda said...

I don't remember ever reading her witnessing them be beat. And who's to say she never tried to intervene. My guess is that if she ever did know it was happening she was powerless to stop it.

I do remember her taking the brunt of it one time when Doug left....i can't remember the specifics right now.

I also highly doubt she knows about Doug's tattoo. Bet he didn't say a word to her about it.

It's strange to me that others perceived her as weak when I perceived her as strong. Weird.

eekareek said...

The sixties was when women's lib was in action, right?

Landee said...

That video is making me uncomf, Memz. But the song is good.

Memzy said...

When he becomes an adult and realized how screwed up he is, at some point he is gonna be like, "Why didn't my mom stand up for me?"

Jenny ESP said...

At the very least, she could take the brunt of the abuse instead of letting her sons step in and take the hits. That's the part that bothered me. If she doesn't want to take action against him, if she feels she has no choice but to stay, then she needs to take the hits.

eekareek said...

I definitely felt that she was weak. She knew what was going on.

She got the brunt of it when Doug refused to say "got it" to his dad.

Landee said...

I perceived her as strong as well. I think you're all talk. There's no way he went from being fine one day to beating the kids and her the next. These things come on gradually and then all of a sudden you have no options.

I pity her. I respect her. I know she just did the best she could with what she had. I don't judge her.

Landee said...

Loved the paper mill boss. Loved the science teacher. Loved the playwright lady. Loved the librarian dude.

Memzy said...

Yeah, don't watch the vid. But just playing in the background works no?

Jenny ESP said...

No, Amanda, she only took the hits sometimes. Mostly her sons took the hits. Trust me. I remember. I'm not lying.

Amanda said...

We have to remember the moral of the story. We can't judge the mother. Although I do respect that we have different opinions on her. It's hard to say what we would do in her situation since none of us have had to choose between living on the street, homeless, or living with an abusive drunk who provides food and shelter. If we judge her we are in danger of being like Doug's school teachers and principal. You just never know....

Memzy said...

She had to know about the tat. Had to. But I digress. Agree to disagree.

Jenny ESP said...

Lets remember the moral of the story and stop judging me for judging her. All I hope is that some mother in this same situation reads this book and learns that she is hurt her children as much, if not more than, the father.

Amanda said...

I love the playwright and the writing God that sat on her shoulder. Could totally relate to that although the writing God hasn't visited me since I had kids.


Also, I loved, loved, loved that the baseball dude came to the play and asked for Doug's autograph and complimented him on his screaming.

eekareek said...

They could just fill in the scroll so that "Mama's Boy" is no longer on the tattoo.

eekareek said...

I read a review on the book that complained about the characters changing and becoming better people. I loved that everyone in the book became a better person. What do you guys think? Was it unrealistic to have everyone change for the better?

Memzy said...

Oh Eeka.....how I've missed you.

Jenny ESP said...

And like I said, I sympathize with her, but recognize that she's making bad choices for her kids. Luckily, Doug is rising above his circumstances. I don't think he'll be the type to blame either of his parents for how his life turns out. He'll be okay... for now.

Memzy said...

I don't think it was unrealistic because everyone didn't change drastically for the better. It was small, very real life "for the better" changes that they went through.

Landee said...

No! People change when they become more understanding of other people. Totally realistic.

I really believe that if we really knew, and I mean REALLY knew, what was going on in anyone's life at any given time, we would love every single person. Srsly. I'm no chump, but it's true.

Amanda said...

I think differences of opinion are cool. You gize can think she's a slimeball and I will think of her as the trying-to-do-the-best-I-can-with-what-I-got woman that she is.

I guess my opinion stems from Doughs. I just always felt that Doug loved his mother and respected her so I did too as I read along. I never heard a hint of anger or bitterness in his voice toward his mom--just sympathy toward her. That's where I'm coming from I guess. Landee, you are my new best friend, btw. :)

Memzy said...

In fact, I think the Dad is far from changing his ways. I'm pretty sure he will still be a doosh of a dad but just not to the extreme he was being. That's real life.

Jenny ESP said...

Wha..? Characters much change by the end of the story. That's the whole point!

Landee said...

::giving Amanda the rock and nodding the "I gotcher back" nod::

eekareek said...

I was thinking that since the story was in Doug's perspective, that the changes were not as drastic for the other people but more that since he got a better attitude about people, then he saw them as better people.

Jenny ESP said...

Why do you think he chose this title? I didn't really like it at first, but now it's growing on me.

Memzy said...

Correction, I don't think the mom is a slimeball. The DAD is. But I was mad at her for not sticking up for her kid. Doug doesn't realize that yet but he will.

Jenny ESP said...

So true, Eek. So true. That's deep.

Amanda said...

I think it's okay.....for now.

Memzy said...

The title was genius I thought. It speaks about how he was just surviving. Living day to day the best he could. And not knowing what the future would bring but that he would face it.

Landee said...

I like the title. It stems from that one snowy heron pic with the hunter right? Like, at first you think he's doomed and the hunter will get him but then Doug realizes we really don't know what happens next. The bird could be totally fine. It's ok for now so why doom it?

Just like Doug's life. I thought he was a goner at the beginning but no...future Broadway star artist extraordinaire advanced algebra taker.

eekareek said...

I am super deep now ever since I enrolled at the community college.

Amanda said...

I so disagree. He will always love his mom. And the weird thing is he will always love his dad. He's just that kind of guy.

Yet another reason I LOVE this book. Doug rocks. He is no victim.

Memzy said...

And also that he is OK for now but then he'll grow up and need serious therapy.

ha

Jenny ESP said...

Repeat what Memzy said. Don't change my words to suit your argument, ma'am. Otherwise I could have been like, "I guess I just don't want to present her with a "Mother of the Year" award like you gize do, and maybe let her babysit my kids while I go out of town."

eekareek said...

I also loved it when he would recognize when he acted like his jerk brother or jerk dad.

Memzy said...

Lollerz Jespy. Lollerz.

Amanda said...

I loved the imagery and symbolism of the Audobon paintings. Did you remember how the playwright pointed how the mom was protecting the sons in the imagery of the painting?

Ha, ha, am I beating this horse dead or what?

Jenny ESP said...

The title doesn't roll off your tongue, I guess. That was my initial hang up. It's like when I would tell people to read These is my Words. Awkwardish.

eekareek said...

Are we still talking about the mom?!?! I already ended that argument, she sucks.

Memzy said...

He's 13. He shouldn't have to be a certain kind of guy. He's just trying to survive his crappy life. He will love his parents, sure. That doesn't mean he won't be really pizzed off at some point. When you reach a point in reality it doesn't mean you are a victim.

Landee said...

I'd let her babysit my kids.

Memzy said...

Amanda, something we can agree on!! The imagery of the birds was awes!

Jenny ESP said...

hahaha @ Eeek

Jenny ESP said...

hahaha with eek

eekareek said...

I agree, Memzy. I don't think he is going to be like his dad and end up in a mental institution or anything but I think he will have daddy issues. Lil will help him through it.

Memzy said...

Like you'd drop your kids off at their house with the dooshbag dad there?

eekareek said...

She can't babysit my kids or else I would lose my foster license. Besides, I don't want her tattooing my kids up.

Amanda said...

I know, he just seems to have that kind of personality. A survivor.

He seems to "get it" and people who get it just keep going no matter their upbringing. I know people like that and he reminds me of them. Sure they get pissed but they don't get angry about things they can't change. They look for understanding and move on. I know he's a young lad, but he's smart. And he's okay.....for now and forever if you ask me. I think he's going to make it.

Jenny ESP said...

Ha!

Memzy said...

Oh he will make it for sure. The fact that he survives in what he lives with now is a perfect example of that. He will always survive, persevere, hand in there. But he will have challenges that a lot of kids won't because of his parents choices. The end. Amen.

eekareek said...

Doug was out making deliveries in deep snow while his ears were about to break off. She couldn't go get a job and try to find a better life for her kids??? What really made me mad was when Lucas came home and the chump husband wouldn't take him to the doctors and she just let that happen. I would do whatever it took if my kid came home alive after that to help him get better.

Jenny ESP said...

Maybe that is what the title is supposed to mean. By the end of the book, Doug is okay... for now. Lil is okay... for now. Mom is okay... for now. Dad is okay... for now. Etc. We get to imagine how it all turns out based on what info he's given us.

Landee said...

I'm finding it ironic that so much of this discussion is on our judgment of the mother when the moral of this book is Don't Judge Others or something.

Amanda said...

Well said, Memzy. I agree. :)

Jenny ESP said...

Some characters seemed to have learned and grown more than others. I think Doug will definitely be okay... forever. He's just like that.

Amanda said...

No kidding Landee!!!!

Amanda said...

I would just like to say that what the heck is she supposed to do? I thought the author illustrated so beautifully the helplessness of women in abusive relationships. These women don't enjoy watching their children and themselves be abused or neglected. But they don't know what to do about it.

Landee said...

All I know is I'm going to share whatever ice cream I've ordered with our grocery delivery boy from now on. I didn't realize that was what I was supposed to be doing.

Memzy said...

Ironic maybe. But that's why I love books like this so much. Life is not all butterflies and rainbows. Unicorns, maybe.

This is what a book discush is all about. Having different perpectives of characters. I love it.

Amanda said...

The mom just tried not to make waves. She knew who was the boss. She was like a child instead of a wife. I really did enjoy the understated agony she was experiencing.

So weird we see this differently but it's okay!

Jenny ESP said...

But, but, but Landee... why is okay (for now) that we all judge the dad to be despicable, but it is wrong to hold the mom up to the same standard? Just because you don't agree, for find our judgement sinful. If you agreed, as in the case of the father, you wouldn't be chastising us so. ::shoving you of your high horse::

Amanda said...

I enjoy discussions like this too. I never even expected to be talking about the mom. So fun and interesting to have different points of view. :)

Landee said...

I don't judge the Dad either. He could have been beaten every day of his entire childhood and so he's 1000 times better because he only beats them once a month or so.

So what?

The fact that we all felt the same on him just means we aren't discussing it. That would be a stupid convo.

Jenny ESP said...

Yeah, way fun.

Memzy said...

Ernie Eco is going to hell tho and stuff.

eekareek said...

The mom was not a child, she was the mom. Her only job was to protect her kids. She spent too much time with her garden and not enough time taking care of her kids. She was weak because she just let it happen. If she was strong, she would have stopped it, left the chump. She was not helpless. This is what the women of the era were fighting for was so that women did not have to be helpless. She could have gotten a job at the library and helped with the categorizing.

Landee said...

Ernie is obvs in hell. That's not judging. That's just stating factoids.

Amanda said...

It's easy to judge doosh dad, the aggressor.

The case with the mom is different because some say she enabled the aggressor and some saw her as being another one of the victims.

However, what is interesting is that doosh dad had to have been mistreated himself as a child. You don't just grow up and be a doosh for no reason. It's probably all grandpa's fault. And so on and so forth.....

Landee said...

For all we know the mom was mentally retarded. I'm not lying. That is a definite possibility.

That smile.

Landee said...

And I don't say that to be mean. I'm serious. Her non reactions could have meant a lot of things. You guys expected way to much from her.

Memzy said...

The mom was obviously weak. Totally factual.

Jenny ESP said...

Some say the mom was both a victim and an enabler. <--me. Some say that some say the mom was a slimball when nobody said it to pad their arguement. <--not naming names.

Landee said...

Some say don't judge others. <--- Jesus.

Jenny ESP said...

I think we all know the mom had her reasons. We all know that she felt helpless. We got it. We just also recognize that children are the most powerless in that situation. The mom is an underdog, we feel bad for her, but Doug is the underunderdog. That's all.

Jenny ESP said...

Some say don't judge Jenny. <--Jesus

Amanda said...

Agree with what Landee said about how these things don't happen overnight......they creep up slowly. And there is always the hope for change. You hang on hoping that the next day he won't drink or he won't this or that. Also, they aren't like that all the time. And they tell you things that make you think they are going to change. They're charismatic and kind, they give gifts or say they're sorry. They promise to be better.

It's tough for these women. They are scared and unsure of which is worse, being on their own and facing the unknown, or staying where they are at and dealing with it and trying to protect the kids as best they can. The most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she leaves.

Raise your hand if it sounds like I wrote a bazillion papers on women's rights, battered women, girl babies born in India, the suffragettes , and every other woman's topic I could think of in college?
I was super intrigued because I could not for the life of me figure out why women stay. Did a lot of reading and finally figured it out. They do the best they can with what they know how.

Just like we all do. Although we don't have what they got.

We have our own set of problems.

Landee said...

::slow clapping Amanda's soliloquizing::

Amanda said...

I don't mean to keep talking about this about it was one of the reasons I loved this book. The author hit on so many topics with so much subtlety. He understands the human condition
for women,
for kids,
artists,
people.

Memzy said...

I can one-up you Amanda cuz I've seen a brazillion "Interventions" on TV and how much abused kids can be screwed up. ::snicker::

Memzy said...

And everyone knows A&E is like a truth teller.

Amanda said...

Dang, I knew I shouldn't have given up TV watching.

Landee said...

K, I gotsta go.

Thanks for the discush and making me realize that if Gty ever turns abusive, and I stay with him because I have my own issues that I should never breathe a word of it here lest I be deemed weak and a slimeball.

I love Doug!

Memzy said...

You're welcome Landee!!!

Jenny ESP said...

We know all that. There's nothing you said that is news to me. I feel just as impassioned about abused women, but I balance that passion with how I terrible and sympathetic I feel for children in abusive homes. I hope you understand.

Jenny ESP said...

Yes, a slime-ball. You can quote me on that.

Amanda said...

Yeah, definitely. Sucks for those kids big-time.

Memzy said...

This was the best discush in a long time! I loved it. The difference of opinions make it really interesting and I'm glad Amanda and Landee shared them. That makes it fun and exciting. At least we can all agree on loving this book. Thanks Jespy!!

Jenny ESP said...

Yep, yep, you all owe me big time. I hope someone else has a book for next month! (As if anyone would want to follow Doug. And is mother, who is to be canonized soon, I hear, along with a few saintly SRBC members. Ha!)

Amanda said...

I thought this was a very fun discussion. It is great to talk about what I thought and see that it wasn't what everyone else thought. Very interesting to learn of your your perspective even though I didn't see it that way. This book is the best I've read since The Book Thief and Mockingjay. Great pick Jespy!

Amanda said...

Since Landee is older than me I say she can be canonized first. I'll go second.

Speaking of children who come from dysfunctional families and what happens to them when they grow up.......what about "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh? It's a debut novel-- been out a couple of months. I heard an interview with the author on NPR (yes, I'm one of those people) and I found it to be very fascinating. I haven't read the book yet, but thought I would throw the idea out there and see what you guys think.

http://www.amazon.com/Language-Flowers-Novel-Vanessa-Diffenbaugh/dp/034552554X

Jenny ESP said...

Do you want to read it first? Screen it for us?

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