cover image THE STEPS


Rachel Cohn, . . S&S, $15.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84549-9

Cohn does for Sydney, Australia, what she did for Los Angeles and Manhattan in Gingerbread, while once again creating a funny and feisty narrator caught in the middle of a complicated family situation. Twelve-year-old Annabel calls her father Jack and her mother Angelina, and her lively voice keeps this story rolling along. When the seventh grader travels to Sydney for Christmas break to stay with Jack and his new family (aka "The Steps"), Annabel plans to "win my dad back" and escort him to New York. Her sadness translates into brattiness, especially toward Lucy, her stepsister who's also 12, but Annabel occasionally lets her guard down (such as when she realizes that Lucy misses her real dad, too). Of course, when Annabel finally asks her father to return, he explains why he cannot. Just then, Angelina phones to tell her she's getting married, creating a whole new set of Steps. Annabel's feelings will be easy for readers to connect with (e.g., "Jack... looked taller, broader, more confident. Like he had found his place in the world. Without me," she says of her transplanted dad), and her plans for winning Jack back are credibly unclear. The conclusion, in which all of Annabel's family and Steps appear in Sydney for a big reconciliation, may be a bit tidy, but Annabel's hyperbolic tone makes nearly anything seem plausible. Readers will wait with bated breath for Cohn's next novel. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)