“Small Steps”, by Louis Sachar, picks up the story of Armpit, one of the boys from Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility introduced in the book “Holes”, also by Sachar. “Small Steps” is not a sequel to Holes, rather a different story involving some of the same characters.
Theodore Johnson, nicknamed Armpit because a scorpion stung him and the pain traveled to his armpit and he complained about it to every boy at Camp Green Lake, is now 18 years old, working as a landscaper’s assistant and attending summer school to get his high school degree. X-Ray, also a Camp Green Lake alumnus, catches Armpit at his job with a money making proposal. X-Ray’s plan is that they both buy tickets to a concert by the newest teenage singing sensation, Kaira DeLeon, at $55 dollars a ticket and turn around and scalp them for big buckets. Armpit agrees to go along with the plan, and the boys purchase the concert tickets.
Armpit has an undeserved reputation as a trouble maker because he was at Camp Green Lake. Most people steer clear of him, except for Ginny McDonald, his 10 year old next store neighbor. Some neighborhood kids make fun of Ginny for the way she speaks and her appearance, she suffers from cerebral palsy, but Ginny is always safe with her friend Armpit, because of his imposing size and reputation.
X-Ray goes about selling the concert tickets, while Armpit struggles with Economics and Speech classes, the two he needs to graduate. He also has a crush on a girl in his class: Tatiana. He asks her to go to the concert with him and she agrees.
However, her girlfriends warn her about dating an ex-juvenile delinquent, and she backs out. Armpit asks Ginny to go instead. X-Ray gives Armpit the two tickets, and all is going fine at the concert, until the cops accuse Armpit of having counterfeit tickets. The cops push him to the floor, and Ginny becomes so upset that she goes into convulsions. Austin’s mayor, who Armpit met when he was doing a landscaping job at her home, steps into the situation, and Armpit is released. Kaira learns of the commotion and brings Ginny and Armpit backstage. A friendship develops between the three of them.
Later the police ask Armpit where he got the counterfeit tickets. Not wanting to tell the cops about X-Ray, Armpit makes up an imaginary person that he says sold him the tickets. The police aren’t fooled, and their investigation eventually leads them to X-Ray and Armpit. Kaira meanwhile has her own problems with her manager, her security guard and death threats. The situation all comes to a head in San Francisco, when Kaira invites Armpit to attend her concert there. In the end, Armpit saves Kaira from the killer and is proclaimed a hero.
Small Steps is a fast paced, enjoyable teen novel.