Small Steps

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Small Steps by Louis Sachar
Jan 2006
Holes by Louis Sachar is one of my all-time favourite books, so it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I approached its sequel, Small Steps. Sequels can so often disappoint and even taint fond memories of the original (Star Wars�need I say more). Having said that, Small Steps is more like a spin-off than a sequel, since it picks up on two of the secondary characters from Holes three years after their horrendous hole-digging nightmare at the notorious Camp Greenlake correctional facility. The unfortunately nick-named Armpit is catching up on his education by way of summer school, whilst also making some money working as a gardening labourer � mostly doing something at which he is well-practiced - digging holes. The Small Steps of the title refers to his rehabilitation counsellor�s advice to take things one step at a time. This worthy intention is interrupted when his well-meaning but misguided friend X-Ray turns up with a dubious plan to make money by touting concert tickets, convincing Armpit to part with his hard-earned cash in order to purchase said tickets.

Sachar�s writing is as fresh and uncomplicated as ever, and one is immediately swept up into the compulsive narrative. Tension builds quickly as the two boys find themselves hurtling back towards incarceration when their supposedly fool-proof scam inevitably goes awry. Armpit finds counsel in an unlikely friendship with his neighbour � a younger girl with cerebral palsy who takes her problems in her stride and encourages him to do the same. A romance blossoms under the most unexpected circumstances and Armpit is drawn into the daunting world of a teenage rock-chick, further complicating his already fretful situation.

The somewhat far-fetched storyline is carried along by the tender and convincingly imperfect relationships and by the unaffected directness of the author�s voice. The story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, whilst mercifully avoiding a clich�d happy ending. Small Steps has a completely different feel about it to Holes � which makes it almost impossible to compare the two. Instead I would recommend treating the latest book on its own merits � a skilfully plotted, beautifully executed tale of friendship, trust, love, prejudice, disillusionment and redemption. I am happy to say that my only disappointment was with how quickly it was all over � I challenge you to try and make it last for more than one sitting � I couldn�t.

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This page contains a single entry by Rowan Stanfield Miller published on March 7, 2006 9:01 AM.

Peace Weavers was the previous entry in this blog.

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