In Gary Schmidt's novel Okay for Now, what are examples of figurative language or strong word choice? What types of figurative language are being used? What meaning or significance does the figurative language or strong word choice create?
Figurative language refers to any figures of speech a writer uses to create deeper meaning and impact the reader. A figure of speech simply refers to any words used in a non-literal sense. Non-literal language can help a reader obtain a greater understanding of what a writer is trying to convey because non-literal language, or figurative language, applies to our senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound. There are many different types of figurative language, and some of those include metaphor, simile, metonymy, synecdoche, puns, personification, apostrophe (a form of personification), as well as many others (Dr. Wheeler, "Tropes").
We can actually find one example of personification in the early pages of Gary Schmidt's novel Okay for Now. The protagonist Doug Swieteck opens the first chapter by telling the story of how he once owned a Joe Pepitone baseball cap, given to him and signed by the ballplayer himself, for 10 whole hours before it was taken from him and passed on to several different people in his school before being completely lost. One reason why the cap meant so much to him is because it was, as he says a couple of times, "the only thing [he] ever owned that hadn't belonged to some other Swieteck before [him]," that is, it hadn't been a hand-me-down. Yet Doug does not have faith his readers will be able to empathize with his feelings concerning the importance of the cap, as we see when he says, "I know. That means a big fat zero to anyone else" (p. 3). In this passage, the number zero is not literally big and fat; in fact, the number zero has no true existing shape or form. Personification is a type of figurative language in which an author attributes human characteristics to inanimate objects. Since only humans and other animals can literally be fat, we can easily see how the phrase "big fat zero" is an example of personification.
But more importantly, the sentence containing personification is very useful in characterizing Doug. In the story prior, the reader clearly sees just how physically and emotionally neglected as well as physically abused Doug is. The reader learns the saddest revelation of all so far from the sentence containing personification: due to his neglect and abuse, Doug does not believe that anyone has the capability of caring about anything, which is why he says that his baseball cap will mean "a big fat zero," meaning nothing, "to anyone else."