Step by Wicked Step: A Novel

Honest portrayal will appeal to kids.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The children sometimes act bratty, but their motivations are clear: The parents are sometimes selfish and distant.


Divorce is frightening to any child. These kids have been through a lot, often without much adult help.


Parental affairs are implied, but not shown.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that few books capture so perfectly the feelings and thoughts of children of broken homes.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Five classmates find a journal kept by a boy who ran away from his stepfather, which prompts them to tell their own stories of stepfamilies. Rarely has any author so effectively gotten inside the heads of children from broken homes with such insight and clear-eyed understanding.

Is it any good?


Anne Fine does so much right in the book, beginning with the spooky old mansion and the finding of the journal and its Dickensian melodrama. But it's the stories the modern children tell that resonate with readers, both those who have had similar experiences and those who haven't. The book is not about solving problems, but about simply dealing with them. All of the children get a chance to express themselves, and to realize (along with readers) that they are not alone.

The children are sometimes too sophisticated in their insight, becoming merely the mouthpiece for the message, but the way they think and feel is on target. Notably, and most important, the author recognizes and validates the anger many children feel when the adults who should be caring for them cause their lives to spin out of control, and then expect them to just adjust and be happy. It's not all happy endings here, but it does have the taste of reality.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about complicated family relationships. If divorce and remarriage are part of your family's story, this could be an opening to talk about the stresses -- and benefits -- of this complex structure. Adult relationships are at the core of divorce and new relationships; where do children's voices fit in the picture?

Book details

Author:Anne Fine
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:January 1, 1996
Number of pages:138
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Step by Wicked Step: A Novel was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bynalan January 17, 2011
age 17+
i think the novel is very good... i love Anne fine's novel...thank you...
What other families should know
Educational value
Parent of a 9 year old Written byLOGA January 5, 2011
age 15+


What other families should know
Great messages


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