Small Steps by Louis Sachar: B

From the back cover:
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 Armpit is Ginny, his ten-year-old disabled neighbor. Together they’re learning to take small steps.

Armpit seems to be on the right path until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. X-Ray’s moneymaking plan leads Armpit to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation Kaira DeLeon, and suddenly Armpit’s life spins out of control. Only one thing is certain; he’ll never be the same.

In his first major novel since Holes, critically acclaimed novelist Louis Sachar combines his signature wit with a unique blend of adventure and profoundly real characters to explore issues of race, the nature of celebrity, the invisible connections that shape a person’s life, and what it takes to stay on course. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice—but always a small step in the right direction.

Small Steps wasn’t bad, but it’s no Holes, that’s for sure. The latter boasted multi-layered plot threads from different time periods converging together in a clever manner, and a subtle criticism of racism. Small Steps had a straightforward narrative and could be rather heavy-handed in its message.

Theodore (I feel bad calling him Armpit since he hates it so much) was a sympathetic lead character, and I liked him a lot, though he frustrated me by letting X-Ray (who seriously needed to be smacked) and other people walk all over him. Though, I guess when one is a big black dude whose motives are constantly being misinterpreted, maybe one does tend to go into doormat mode to avoid trouble.

The basic story was enjoyable (though parts of the ending were too convenient) but not really anything amazing. I was pleased with Theodore’s idea about a possible career, however. It really suited him. I worried Sachar would have him aspire to be a rapper or something after his brush with the entertainment world. On a random note, in my head, Kaira DeLeon is played by Dana Davis.

I did like Small Steps, but it’s just not as special as its predecessor. If Sachar were to write more books about the others who’d been at Camp Green Lake, I’d probably read them.

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  1. Sachar was a favorite of mine for a long time, but I never read Holes, which I feel bad admitting. Is Camp Green Lake the camp from that book?

    When I started reading the plot summary, I thought of “There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom,” which I only remember vague bits of, but I think the main characters are in similar situations. I think the main character in “Bathroom” had a much less interesting solution to his problems, but I remember liking that one a lot.

  2. Yep, that’s where Camp Green Lake is from. I was really impressed by it; it turned out to be a lot more than I was expecting.

    I’ll check out “There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.”

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