Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But it's hard when you have a record, and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believes in him is Ginny, his 10-year old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps. And he seems to be on the right path, until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. This leads to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation, Kaira DeLeon, and suddenly his life spins out of control, with only one thing for certain. He'll never be the same again.
In his first major novel since Holes, critically acclaimed novelist Louis Sachar uses his signature wit combined with a unique blend of adventure and deeply felt characters to explore issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that determine a person's life, and what it takes to stay on course. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice—but a small step in the right direction. (from Goodreads)
This is a sequel to Holes! I don’t really remember Armpit, but I DO remember X-Ray and what a creep he is. (Not a surprise to find him much the same in Small Steps, though he’s slightly more sympathetic because he gets a few pet the dog moments.)
Small Steps is about finding your way back into normalcy about being outside it for a while. It’s also about friendship and why you shouldn’t let yourself get peer-pressured into doing illegal stuff. Also about how just because you LOOK scary doesn’t mean you’re actually dangerous.
There’s a LOT of stuff about outside appearances vs. inner reality, actually. Particularly since Armpit is a large black man– a lot of his interaction with people is them edging away from him, actually. None of it is directly talked about by either the narrative or Armpit, and I’m not sure if it’s necessary to do so or not. Like, it’s obviously unfair that everyone’s afraid of him when he’s a nice guy who hasn’t done anything wrong. The story itself highlights that so clearly that talking any more about it directly would tip it over into pseudo-preachy territory, don’t you think? But maybe it NEEDS to be preached, who knows.
Anyway, there’s also some stuff about fame and fortune and how it’s not necessarily good (of course), but it’s not bad, either. And there’s a super creepy subplot about an attempted murder, holy hell.
On the whole, I liked Small Steps. It’s not as overtly magical as Holes was, but it’s a strong contemporary story and one that I think y’all would enjoy reading. I particularly liked Armpit’s slow evolution from (relatively) normal teenager to a responsible almost-an-adult to hero. (It reminded me of Stanley’s character development, actually. Slow and steady wins the race!)
Read: October 28, 2013