Author: Louis Sachar
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2006
Small Steps is the sequel to Holes. Sequel might be too strong a word; Small Steps is about the lives of Armpit and X-Ray, two of the boys from Camp Green Lake, after they've been released. Stanley Yelnats, the main character of Holes, does not appear in Small Steps.
Armpit (AKA Theodore Johnson) is out of the Green Lake correctional facility, and trying to get his life back on track. He's working for a landscaper. He's taking classes at the local high school to get his GED. He's following the advice of his parole officer -- just take small steps. Move forward at a slow and steady pace. Don't try to move forward too quickly, or you'll just fall down again.
And then X-Ray comes along. X-Ray has a new plan to make a lot of money quickly; scalping tickets. All he needs is $800 from Armpit (I mean Theodore). Theodore is dubious as to the wisdom of this plan, particularly as it involves his investing nearly all of his savings, but goes along with it.
I can't say a whole lot more without giving away things which are better discovered at their own pace, but I will mention the two other main characters. Ginny, Armpit's next door neighbor and other best friend, is a young girl with cerebral palsy. She's smart and fun, but plays a passive role for most of the book, listening to Armpit's problems and giving him advice. She does have her big moment, tho. And Kaira DeLeon, a popular singer, who is having all kinds of problems -- her stage manager cum step-father and her bodyguard are trying to run her life, and her career. And yes, the tickets being scalped are to her show.
Small Steps is quite different from Holes. Holes was more removed from reality, more dreamy, more like a fairy tale. Small Steps is a much more normal young adult novel. It's dealing with real problems that real teenagers might have, and while some of the things that happen are far fetched, they aren't really more unlikely than the things that happen in most books.
I would consider Holes to be a great book, but Small Steps just to be a good book. I expect that Small Steps will generally be seen as a great book, tho. Small Steps has a more general appeal -- no one is going to be turned off from Small Steps because it's too weird. It's engrossing. The problems are realistic, the characters are interesting, and the story is fun. It doesn't seem to send a perfectly consistent message (not all of the steps taken are small), but it is a story with a message; life shouldn't be expected to move in leaps and bounds.
One other note; Amazon thinks this book is written for 9 to 12 year olds. I would put the age a little higher, maybe 12-16 year olds. But people in their mid-20s have been known to enjoy it too.