Review posted March 9, 2012.
Random House, Listening Library, 2011. 9 hours 30 minutes on 8 compact discs.
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Audio Rereads
From the time I read Okay for Now early in 2011, I was hoping it would win the 2012 Newbery Medal. However, I was in several discussions about the book, and found that many others didn't like the ending and thought too much was thrown into the book at the end and felt it lost believability. Personally, I thought the book completely overcame any flaws, but I feared it wasn't such a shoo-in for the award as I had hoped.
One of the discussions was at the Morris Seminar, which is a training for award committees. I decided to reread the book in audio form.
Listening to this production of Okay for Now made me fall in love with the book all over again. A key characteristic of the book is the voice of the narrator, Doug Swietek, and reader Lincoln Hoppe gets his voice just right. One of the things I like about the book are the repeated words that are used throughout the book, and Mr. Hoppe read them in a way that you notice the subtle differences in the ways the words are used. For example, when Doug says "Terrific" at the start, it's always sarcastic. But he uses the word at the end to mean genuinely terrific. There are several other repetitions like that, and Lincoln Hoppe nails them all.
Another thing listening to the audio version pointed out to me was the structure of the book. There are eight CDs, and the fourth CD is full of dramatic turning points. I didn't notice when I was barreling through reading it to myself, but right in the middle the plot makes some important turns.
So I was indeed disappointed that Okay for Now didn't get any Newbery Honor, but I was delighted when the audio production won an Odyssey Honor. (The Odyssey awards are for children's and young adult audiobooks.) The Odyssey Awards do not have to worry about believability of plot. They simply focus on the quality of the production. This one is excellent.
I've already talked two of my co-workers into listening to this audiobook. The one catch is that you won't see the reproductions of the Audubon prints Doug works on. But you will pay much more attention to the descriptions of the birds.