Armpit and X-Ray are living in Austin, Texas. It is three years since they left the confines of Camp Green Lake Detention Centre and Armpit is taking small steps to turn his life around. He is working for a landscape gardener because he is good at digging holes, he is going to school and he is enjoying his first proper romance, but is he going to be able to stay out of trouble when there is so much building up against him?
In this exciting novel, Armpit is joined by many vibrant new characters, and is learning what it takes to stay on course, and that doing the right thing is never the wrong choice.
This companion to Holes follows a former detainee at Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility (where he was sent after a spilled-popcorn-mishap-turned brawl at a cinema), in his life on the outside. Armpit now works for a landscape company while he finishes up high school. The earnest teen is back on track, in no small part due to the mutually restorative friendship he has forged with Ginny, a 10-year-old neighbor born with cerebral palsy. This bright, perceptive girl has given Armpit a great deal ("For the first time in his life, there was someone who looked up to him, who cared about him") and has "released him from his anger." X-Ray, another Camp Green Lake alum, nearly derails Armpit's new life when he convinces Armpit to buy into a ticket-scalping scheme for a concert by teen rock star Kaira a scheme that goes horribly awry. In a rather contrived plot twist, Armpit winds up meeting Kaira who then falls for Armpit and he for her. Even less likely is the novel's final, sensational melodrama (Kaira's evil stepfather and manager futilely tries to murder her and frame Armpit for the crime). Sachar does inject some credible intrigue here (notably surrounding the potential legal consequences of Armpit's and X-Ray's involvement in the ticket scam) and effectively emphasizes the importance of taking "small steps." Unfortunately, although Armpit's steady small steps result in some big strides, this is a disappointingly flat spin-off of Sachar's resonant Newbery winner. Ages 10-up.