Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Small Steps - Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar's Small Steps is not a sequel to Holes as such since it is not about Stanley Yelnats (although he gets a passing mention). Instead Small Steps focuses on Theodore "Armpit" Johnson who has finally been released from Camp Green Lake, the horrific juvenile detention centre that was the setting for Holes.

Armpit lives in Austin, Texas, with his parents. He is determined to finish school and makes use of his incredible digging skills by working part time for a landscaping firm. He's taking Speech and Economics classes, saving most of his money, and taking small steps towards becoming a useful member of society. His life is going fairly smoothly until X-Ray, another of the Camp Green Lake detainees, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. Young pop singer Kaira DeLeon is coming to town on her tour, and her concert is sure to be a sell out. X-Ray's plan is to buy twelve tickets for the concert then resell them to the highest bidders. He needs Armpit's help (and, more importantly, his savings) to buy the tickets. He promises to share the wealth with Armpit and to make Armpit far richer than he is at present.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the plan backfires badly, and Armpit learns some lessons about economics, ethics and the law. The only good thing that comes out of the plan is that Armpit and his young neighbour Ginny (who suffers from cerebral palsy) actually get to meet Kaira DeLeon. Armpit and Kaira have instant chemistry - he is attracted to her beauty and intelligence, whilst she is pleasantly surprised that he likes her for herself. Unfortunately things don't go as swimmingly as romantics might hope, and both of them find themselves in unexpected situations after Keira arranges for Armpit to fly out to San Fransisco for her concert there.

If you are expecting Small Steps to continue more of Stanley Yelnats' story, you will be disappointed, and if you are expecting more of the tall-tale, mythic (even) quality of Holes' storytelling, you will probably be disappointed as Small Steps is a far more prosaic and straightforward narrative. If you approach the book as a story in its own right, however, you will probably enjoy it; I certainly did. Armpit is an interesting character (especially in his relationships to Ginny and Kaira) and he definitely grows as a person during the course of the book.

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