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Book Report: Small Steps

So the odd thing about Louis Sachar, from my point of view, is that although I liked Holes all right (I really liked the beginning, but was a trifle disappointed with the middle and end), my Perfect Non-Reader simply adored the Wayside School series. I mean crazy about them. So I think of him as the Wayside School guy, writing for—what—six- to eight-year olds? Something like that. Anyway, when I picked Small Steps off the library shelf, or when my Best Reader did (I can’t recall which), I had sort of forgotten that it would be YA, rather than kid lit. So I was surprised by how forthrightly he was dealing with race, sex (or at least sexual attraction), and violence.

It’s an interesting book, although I didn’t love it. It was a lot less surreal than Holes, and held a lot less mystery. On the other hand, it’s a more serious book. I suspect that Mr. Sachar wanted to make a couple of points about recidivism, race and reality, and tried to slip them in with a spoonful of plot sugar. I can’t tell if it comes off preachy or not.

I should point out, though, that it’s interesting to me that this Young Adult book has a protagonist who is fresh out of juvenile detention, and who is hard-working and serious about trying to get straight and who cuts class to engage in some illegal commerce. He’s a good kid, sweet to his neighbors, who uses his threatening image as a big black ex-con to his advantage. And he violently resists arrest. Admittedly, it was a false arrest, and it was clear he was mostly arrested for being a big black ex-con, but still. He hits a police officer. And he’s the good guy. It’s interesting, is all.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,