In a review for Holes, Josh Lacey commented Small Steps "has a lot to recommend it - funny dialogue, a fast-moving story, some emotive scenes, an interesting central character - but does inevitably suffer by comparison with Sachar's last novel." During his review for the New York Times, A.O. Scott praised the novel's prose as being "clear and relaxed, and funny in a low-key, observant way," and observed that unlike Holes, Small Steps "the realism is more conventional, and the book sticks more closely to the genre of young-adult problem literature."
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