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“And son, all us men realize sooner or later, we must learn to be fathers to ourselves,” Poppie. –One More Step
One More Step
by Sheree Fitch
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers
Fourteen-year-old Julian’s parents separated when he was a baby, and he is still angry and hurt. His mother has had relationships since—all of which have ended disastrously—but this time it seems serious. Jean-Paul looks like he might be the real thing. Julian is wary—and critical—as he comes to terms with the fact that he and his brother may have to let down their defenses and allow their mother to find happiness. On a road trip with his mother and her new beau, Julian finds that love and happiness can come in many guises.
Anyone who comes from a broken family will relate to Julian, who is frustrated with his mother’s less-than-perfect boyfriends. Plus, Julian is still angry at his father for leaving when he was just a baby. While the story delves into the relationship between Julian and his father, the father-son relationship is not explored in depth. Instead, much of the story revolves around Julian’s relationship with his mother’s boyfriend, Jean-Paul. Even though Julian is often rude to Jean-Paul, Jean-Paul is always supportive of both Julian and his mother. In the end, he realizes that it is not blood that determines true family, but the willingness to stand together.
In One More Step, Julian also must deal with the death of his grandfather. However, Julian’s grieving process is not explored in detail. Despite that, Julian’s positive relationship with his grandfather is funny and endearing.
Julian’s story is told through his diary and much of the action takes place before the book begins. Since the story’s focus is Julian’s emotions and relationships, there is little action. While Julian’s story is not action-packed, his relationships are realistic and interesting. Written as a part of the Orca Soundings books, which are specifically written for teens, One More Step looks at the complicated nature of families. Readers interested in reading more books that explore family dynamics should add In Plain Sight by Laura Langston to their reading lists.
- For Christmas, Chris’s mom gives him “purple condoms in his Christmas stocking. Mom must think things are heating up between Chris and Becca.”
- After receiving a Christmas gift from her boyfriend, Jean-Paul, Mom gives him a kiss. Julian thinks, “No tongue, just a peck on the cheek. Thank God.”
- Julian is glad his grandparents are coming over because “Maybe that would mean Mom and Jean-Paul would keep their hands off each other. I saw hickeys on my mother’s neck when she was in her bathrobe.”
- Julian sees his mother and Jean-Paul outside. Jean-Paul “was planting these little quick kisses on her mouth, her nose, her chin, and her forehead. Kind kisses. Sugar kisses. . .”
- When Mom and Jean-Paul get married, Julian “boogied the night away with sweet Bernadette. I even got a real French kiss before the night was through. Maybe two. Maybe three.”
- When Chris comes home from college, Julian thinks Chris “probably finally kissed Becca or used a condom.”
- When Julian was being disrespectful during dinner, his Nana “kicked [him] under the table. For eating with my mouth open! She kicked me! In the shin!” Later Julian burps just to be rude and “Nana kicked him again.”
- Julian upsets his father and “his fist found the wall. He punched a hole right through.”
- One of Mom’s boyfriends, who Julian calls the Shark, stalked her after they broke up. The man showed up at their house “high as a kite.” The Shark “grabbed a fistful of Mom’s hair and was screaming at her.” When the Shark refuses to let go of Mom, Chris “whacked him a good one across the back of the neck with a bat. The guy was out cold. There was blood. We were bawling and screaming by the time we heard the sirens.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Julian’s grandfather had a retirement party, “they’d all had a bit to drink.”
- One of Mom’s boyfriends was “only interested in drinking beer.”
- Julian’s father is a “harmless drunk who holds down a good paying job.”
- While at his father’s house, his dad had coke “spiked with rum.”
- While meeting Jean-Paul’s family, he allows Julian to have a beer. “I realized the other kids my age were sipping beer too.” Later, Julian “was feeling a bit dizzy from the beer.”
- Julian goes out with his friends and comes home drunk. He “hurried to [his]room and prayed for the ceiling to stop spinning.”
- Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes: ass, asshole, damn, frickin’, hell, pisses, and shit.
- Holy crap is used once.
- Julian refers to one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends as “the Turd.”
- Julian tells his brother, Chris, to “Frig off.” Chris replies, “Bite me.”
- My God and Lord are both used as an exclamation once. Oh, Jesus is used twice.
- When Julian’s stepmom went to feed the baby, Julian walked into the room just as “Erika popped her breast out of her shirt.” He says, “Oh, Jesus! Sorry, Erika.”
- Julian’s grandfather calls him a “peckerhead.”
- On an outing, Mom wants everyone to “hold hands in a circle and listen to the stillness” and say a prayer. Julian thinks, “a wave thumped so loud below us, it seemed to me that God was mocking her.” Mom says that they are praying “to the Source.”