Book review: Small Steps, by Louis Sachar

First, I should tell you that Holes is one of my favorite books written for a younger audience, hands down. I specifically think the opening of that book (the first two chapters) are an utterly brilliant example of good, concise writing that should be used in creative writing classes everywhere.

But I wasn’t aware there were sequels until I spotted this on the audiobook shelf of my local library.

I started listening with an expectation of quality, yet a little trepidation, the way one does when discovering a sequel to a beloved childhood favorite when you’re an adult.

And the start of the plot was immediately stressful to me, because wow, I hadn’t realized how much I can’t stand watching as a cautious character, who doesn’t have much and is barely scraping out a new start for himself, gets sucked into an extremely risky business deal through all kinds of fake-friend guilt tripping. I was in agony.

But that business deal took several twists, surprising me, though the trouble was inevitable after all.

I really loved Jenny and all her disabled stuffed animals. Theodore was just fantastic with her, so insightful in how he explained her father’s abandonment to her. His cleverness in that moment felt discordant with his naivety/gullibility in other scenes.

The night of the concert! Holy crap, that nearly went so, so horribly (and yet realistically), and it could have continued to go worse and worse if not for the timely surprise intervention of the mayor! I’ve never been so thankful for a deus ex machina.

I also really liked Kyra de Leon, the portrayal of a teen pop star. She was so tactful with Jenny, it also felt a little discordant with her earlier displays of immaturity.

How happy was I about the arc with her bodyguard, though? Very, very happy. I like to imagine that bodyguard is one of the only people she keeps around her and trusts in the next stage of her life.

And I loved the realism of the end, how she didn’t contact Theodore again (at least not in the book’s timeline) after her attack. It makes too much sense — the trauma of the attack, the brevity of their acquaintance, how mixed-up and unsettled it was just before the attack. But I was so relieved she kept her voice, and I know she’ll have a highly successful career ahead of her (especially with that tragic backstory).

Things I love about Louis Sachar’s writing style:

  • the matter-of-fact way race is dealt with
  • how he actually makes me feel nostalgic for Texas
  • his deft hand bringing all kinds of characters to life, with very simple language and descriptions

In conclusion, this was a good book with an enjoyable story, but not nearly on the level of the exemplary Holes.

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