What’s even better than a companion book for The Wednesday Wars? A companion book that works just fine as a standalone book! (Some people call this book a sequel, but I am calling it a “companion” book because it has a different main character and doesn’t require you to read the first book in order to understand what’s going on.) There IS a bit of a shout-out to Holling Hoodhood, which is nice, but this book focuses on Doug Swieteck — one of Holling’s friends whose family has to move upstate, to a small town called Marysville, when his dad’s bad attitude causes him his job.
We learn pretty early on that Doug’s father is a jerk; he treats his family like trash and doesn’t grasp the simple notion that the world doesn’t owe him anything that he didn’t work to earn. Doug’s mom is really passive and pretty much ignores her husband’s faults while trying her best not to anger him. And then there are Doug’s brothers — one who is serving in Vietnam, and one who moves with the family and then falls in with the local herd of jerks. Luckily, Doug meets Lil Spicer and gets a job delivering groceries for her dad’s deli. Through this job, he gets out of the house, forms relationships with some of the townspeople, and makes little bit of money to boot. There are several points where things get really rough for Doug, but he always manages to find solace in the local library where he is intrigued by, and learns to draw, the birds found in the John James Audubon book kept on display. With its complex characters, rich setting, and the message of hope and perseverance, I think this book would appeal to nearly anyone who likes a good story.