July 21, 2014

IMWAYR: Okay for Now

Confession: I started this book like 3 weeks ago and had a hard time finishing it. I wanted to LOVE it because my friend Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit told me I would. At first, I was going to tell you that I just found this book to be kinda... meh, but after writing my review, I realized that there were many parts I enjoyed, so I'm changing my review to say that I liked, but didn't LOVE this novel. 

I'm glad I read this because it's on the Rebecca Caudill list for this year, which means many of my students will be reading it. There were definitely parts I enjoyed... actually, as I write this, I'm realizing that I enjoyed many parts of the story. I loved reading about the dynamics of the family and the pieces of US History that are blended into the storyline. I loved the little love story between Doug and Lil, which wasn't too over-the-top to scare away your boy readers. And, just like in The Wednesday Wars, I loved the writing and dialogue. 

The parts that always seemed to lose my interest were when Doug was at the library learning how to draw the Arctic tern with Mr. Powell. Maybe this comes from my own lack of knowledge - I'm not much of a nature person and don't really care for birds - but I didn't pay much attention to his instruction here and was always waiting for the next scene to start. I mean... I still understood the metaphor behind it... I just didn't care as much.

For me, the interesting parts of a novel have to do with the relationships. I enjoyed reading about how his abusive a father led him to be more loving and compassionate toward his mother. 

The teacher in me really appreciated the recurring idea that there's more to people than what first appears. I really appreciated the moment his brother confessed that feels trapped by the label as a misguided trouble-maker and doesn't want to be that way. It made me wonder if that's true for any of our students, which is why I prefer not to know much about my students before they enter my classroom. I don't like having any expectations, especially negative, about my students before I meet them myself. 

This also applied to Doug's "so-called-gym-coach," whom we learn is also a Vietnam vet who is dealing with his own demons. As soon as Doug learns this about Coach Reed, he's able to see him as a person instead of just an evil drill sergeant. Doug shows great empathy and uses that relationship to help his own brother, recently home and injured from the war, come out of his depression. 

I would recommend this book to peers and students alike because I think it lends itself to some great teachable moments. I think, at the end of the day, there is much to be learned from Doug's experiences, especially related to how everyone has their own story to tell.

As a side note, I actually listened to this book on my OverDrive app in the car with Joel, which I think makes this the first novel he's completed since high school. I'd call that #winning!


  1. Last summer I couldn't get through a "must read" book that all my peers raved about and dropped out of the book study after awhile. I just couldn't motivate myself to finish it. But I want to read it all the way through this summer yet.

  2. I really struggle with Gary Schmidt, and I'm not sure why. I'm going to try rereading this one on audio and seeing if it works better for me. I assigned "Wednesday Wars" in my Adolescent Lit class last semester, and most of the students really struggled with it, though they ultimately found it worthwhile. I liked your comments about the misguided labels we place on students. My very first day of teaching high school, one of the other teachers stood with me in the hall and pointed out all the trouble-makers.

  3. I so know what you mean about not wanting to know anything about kids before I meet them. In the times I have heard about kids, my experiences usually end up so different, and I'm sure that's because of the relationships we have (or don't have) with our students. Anyways, thanks for sharing about the book! :-)

  4. I don't like having any preconceived notions about my students either, especially not negative ones from past teachers! ;)

  5. GO JOEL...tell him I said so!!! I have seen this book, but I haven't read it. It might go on my long list!! XO
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  6. I haven't read any of Schmidt's novels yet, and much of the reviews that I read are often polarized - either they love or hate his writing. I guess I'd just have to find out for myself, thank you so much for sharing your reservations about the book!