OKAY FOR NOWAuthor: Gary D. Schmidt

Genre: Coming Of Age, Young Adult

Publication: 2011

“She came over and looked at the picture. Then she took my hand.
You know what that feels like?
Like what the astronauts will feel when they step onto the moon for the very first time.”


Midwesterner Gary D. Schmidt won Newbery Honor awards for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys and The Wednesday Wars, two coming-of-age novels about unlikely friends finding a bond. Okay For Now, his latest novel, explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.


So you’ve read a book.

It took you a long time just to look for this particular book and when you found it, it feels like fate. And then you read it even though there were so many to-be-read-books that have been in your shelves for months and years. But you read this book first. And you cannot stop even if you want to. It made you laugh because of the witty, sarcastic and adorable main character named Doug (I love it when Mrs. Windermere calls him skinny delivery boy), and it made you smile foolishly whenever Lil Spicer enters a scene with him (I love how the author can make a romantic scene without them telling cheesy lines to each other), it made you bawl your eyes out (because really, who will not cry over this book?), it made you hate almost all the characters at the beginning but then you slowly saw how they were changing and then you realize that they were not really bad guys, and then the book taught you life lessons in a subtle way but will stay with you long after you closed the book, and most of all, it gave you an open ended ending but still you feel quite contented with it.

Do you know what that ending feels like?

It feels like a promise of sunshine after a rainy day. Like a hot coffee when you just came from a very cold place. Like Christmas eve, when you are excited for the next day to come so you can open your presents. Like New Year with a promise of a fruitful year to come. Like possibility.


5 stars


The Earnest Mask

the earnest maskAuthor: Xi Ni Er

Genre: Asian Literature, Singaporean Literature

Publication: English Translation; November 2012 by Epigram Books

“So many changes. In only a few years.”

“Nothing really changes. What’s different is how you feel inside.”


In this Singapore Literature Prize-winning collection of stories, an aging Japanese ex-soldier, ignorant about the horrors of the Japanese Occupation, returns to Singapore for a nostalgic visit; a young boy’s sole contact with his father consists of a weekly meeting at McDonald’s; and a hopeful employee tries to win over his tumour-stricken boss with traditional Chinese medicine. Set against the backdrop of Singapore’s rapid development from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the poignant and witty stories in The Earnest Mask peel back the veneer of official history, revealing flashes of the personal stories buried beneath.


The Earnest Mask showed me the transformation of Singapore from the 1980’s to how it looks like in the early 2000’s through a series of short short stories. It was the first time I’ve ever read a book written by a Singaporean and set in Singapore. And I can say that this book was the best first time I could ever wish. No wonder the author, Xi Ni Er, was awarded with Singapore’s Cultural Medallion while this book won the Singapore’s Literature Prize in 2008.

The stories are short, three to five pages at most, yet the message that the author wanted to impart can be felt through those few pages. Straightforward yet poignant, imaginative, heart-felt and oftentimes satirical, the stories showed a side of Singapore behind its rich and glamorous appearance.

Xi Ni Er imparts his opinion about the Sino-Japanese war, the indifference of the younger Singaporeans to their country’s culture and tradition, their forgotten history, and the consequences of Singapore’s growth as a first world country. In his short stories the author pointed out how establishments with historical values, as well as their natural resources were compromised and destroyed to build the high rise buildings and modern infrastructures that you can see in Singapore today. How their own language is starting to die and replaced by foreign languages. And how, sadly, the present generation doesn’t feel anything at all about these changes.

I can feel the author’s sincere love for Singapore’s past, culture and tradition and how he must feel sad and disappointed that everything is changing so fast. And that their rich history is now becoming a forgotten memory. As for me, The Earnest Mask gave me a glimpse of Singapore through the eyes of its citizen who knows its heart and soul and not blinded by the glimmer of its outside appearance.


4 stars