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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This will appeal to fans of Holes -- it's fun to read and may get readers thinking about the book's bigger ideas.
Armpit doesn't always make the right choices, but ultimately he has a good heart and figures things out in time to make a heroic move.
Positive Role Models
Armpit does go along with X-Ray to scalp tickets and lie to the police -- but he begins the book committed to rehabilitating himself. Readers will find it easy to root for him.
Violence & Scariness
Fights, a stabbing, attempted murder with a baseball bat.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several kisses. Armpit and Kaira strike up a romance. Kaira's bodyguard sees her with her top open, X-Ray hoots at a girl, who flips him off, Kaira tells an audience she's a virgin.
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A few mild epithets.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
X-Ray sells parsley as if it's marijuana, Armpit's parents believe he's using drugs and ask for urine samples, an ex-ball player used steroids, band members drink and smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a better choice for tweens and teens -- young kids who liked Holes may not be quite ready for the edgy material here. There are references to sex and drugs, a bit of pretty nasty violence, and the hero is involved, mostly through stupidity, in some shady dealings. Armpit doesn't always make the right choices, but ultimately he has a good heart and figures things out in time to make a heroic move.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to believe that SMALL STEPS was written by the same author as Holes: This is more of a tangle of elements that resolves into an ill-fitting mess. Holes was a masterpiece of craftsmanship, a complex symphony of disparate thematic elements and vibrant characters woven together in intricate pattern that resolved perfectly.
Louis Sachar knows how to write a fun and enjoyable book. But Holes set the bar a lot higher, and for the sequel to that Newbery Medalist and National Book Award winner something more is expected -- a higher degree of craftsmanship, depth, sophistication, and emotional power, all of which are missing here. Fans of the first book will no doubt want to read it and may even enjoy it (though the romance section of the book appeals to an entirely different audience), but they won't find it as memorable or as powerful.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.