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Small Steps is a young adult novel by Louis Sachar. It is a sequel to Holes which follows Theodore ("Armpit") and X-Ray after their release from Camp Green Lake. Two years later, Armpit is trying to finish passing high school, earn some money, and get his life back on track. X-Ray, however, plans a get-rich-quick scheme with him by scalping tickets. Those tickets, however, are for the concert of Kaira De Leon, a troubled teen pop singer. Their lives intersect in unexpected ways.


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  • Adults Are Useless: Armpit's parents seem unable to believe that their son has become a better person. Kaira's mom throws everything to her husband. The husband tries to kill her.
  • Affably Evil: Billy Boy, an anonymous person who regularly sends Kaira letters telling he loves her, she's beautiful, and one day he'll kill her. He turns out to be El Genius.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Kaira De Leon, and her stepfather, El Genius.
  • Batman Gambit: Kaira hates her bodyguard Fred and regularly tries to ditch him. El Genius had hoped for this, so that he could murder her in secret and not get the blame for it since he was the one who hired Fred.
    • This was also done earlier in the book, as it's revealed the story about how Kaira's tickets sold for $750 in Philadelphia was planted by El Genius to increase demand for them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kaira is saved, but she not only has memory loss but her voice is damaged and she is financially ruined. It is said that she starts singing again, with some difficulty, so there is hope for her to recover her old life.
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  • Defrosting Ice Queen: To Armpit, Kaira opens up almost instantly, but it takes an entire murder attempt for her to open up to her bodyguard.
  • Demoted to Extra: Stanley is only mentioned once, and not even by name. Apparently he gave Armpit lots of free boxes of Sploosh.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Armpit got into Camp Green Lake because he beat up a group of boys who tripped him and made him spill his popcorn.
  • Disability Superpower: Ginny is implied to be good at math. Each of her stuffed animals are also disabled, with some kind of hidden talent.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe. El Genius jokes about how Ginny went into a seizure, causing the cops to think Armpit had given her drugs. Kaira hates this, and personally requests to see them.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Debbie finds out Armpit was one of the ticket scalpers, but doesn't arrest for it because "As I said, case closed."
  • Flipping the Bird: A jogger does this to X-Ray after he flirts with her from his van.
  • Hidden Depths: Of all the characters of Holes, did you really think Armpit would be the kind, thoughtful one?
    • The movie actually implies it, by giving Squid/Alan's lines at the end to him (in which he gives Stanley a phone number and tells him to call his mother and tell her he's sorry for something).
  • I Have This Friend...: Played with. Kaira thinks Armpit is doing this when he attempts to explain the situation.
  • Idol Singer: Kaira De Leon.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Armpit is confused to hear Kaira sing "Oh, you'd never guess, Armpit, [I'm a] damsel in distress." It's actually a Mondegreen saying "I'm but". Kaira actually sings his version later.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    Armpit: "Did you tell her my nickname?"
    Ginny: "I just told her it was a part of the body."
  • Insistent Terminology: X-Ray insists that "X-Ray" isn't his nickname, it's actually his name in another language.
  • Irony: Armpit's new job after leaving Camp Green Lake? Digging holes. (Well, technically trenches, but...)
  • Jerkass: X-Ray has clearly learned nothing from his experiences at Green Lake.
    • And El Genius.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: El Genius. Kaira points out to him the parallel with her name and Ponce de León, but he's never heard of him. He turns out to be much smarter about committing murder.
  • Morality Pet: Ginny to Armpit. Also counts as a sort of Littlest Cancer Patient.
  • One Steve Limit: Enforced. Karia's real name is Kathy Spears, but she performs under a stage name because Britney already took that surname.
  • Properly Paranoid: Kaira believes her stepdad was sending the death threat letters. He was. And tries to kill her.
  • The Stoic: Kaira's bodyguard, Fred.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Kaira does have a therapist, but doesn't trust her because she was hired by her father.
  • Title Drop: "Small steps" is Armpit's motto to rebuilding his life, as well as Ginny's recovery. It ends up being the title of Kaira's new song.
  • Unfortunate Names: El Genius, Kaira's stepfather, real name being Jerome Paisley. Kaira also nicknames her bodyguard "Doofus".
    • One of Armpit's goals is to try to lose his nickname.
  • Wham Line: "Should I sign [your cast] 'Theodore' or 'Armpit'?" Subverted with the next line. "As I said, case closed."
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