Beloved author Gary D. Schmidt expertly blends comedy and tragedy in the story of Doug Swieteck, an unhappy “teenage thug” first introduced in The Wednesday Wars, who finds consolation and a sense of possibility in friendship and art.
At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this absorbing novel centers on Doug, 13, who has an abusive father, a bully for a brother, a bad reputation, and shameful secrets to keep. Teachers and police and his relatives think he’s worthless, and he believes them, holding others at arm’s length. Newly arrived in town, he starts out on the same path—antagonizing other kids, mouthing off to teachers, contemptuous of everything intimidating or unfamiliar. Who would have thought that the public library would turn out to be a refuge and an inspiration, that a snooty librarian might be a friend, or that snarky redheaded Lil would like him—really like him? With more than his share of pain, including the return of his oldest brother from the Vietnam War, shattered and angry, will Doug find anything better than “okay for now”?