CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 22. . . .February 12, 2016
Stepping Out is the story of Paige Larsson, a middle grade student who is a comedy vlogger (video blogger) in her spare time. She loves what she does, making others laugh, and has aspirations of making a career as a comedy vlogger. Online comedy is Paige’s comfort zone as she navigates the ups and downs of middle school. She has a core group of friends, including Hunter, her long-time friend and current crush. In her eyes, her biggest challenges are her sister, who goes out of her way to be unkind, and her limp, a result of complications during birth.
Paige’s life changes when her friends secretly enter her into a nation-wide young comedians contest. Without her knowledge, she has become one of the finalists and will have a chance to win prizes that would help further her career in comedy. This possibility thrills and terrifies Paige, especially when she discovers that she must do two stand-up routines in front of a live audience, something she has never done before. With the support of her friends, drama teacher and even the principal, she puts together the material she needs and sets off for the finals. Throughout the process, she is plagued by doubts, worrying that others will see her disability and not who she really is. Her sister also adds to her self-doubt by taking any opportunity she can to cut Paige down. Paige performs her routine, and, when she is nervous, she falls back on being self-deprecating. While this gets her laughs, it does not win her the competition. Just as readers worry that all of Paige’s dreams are dashed, Raven Prest, a famous comedian and one of the judges, pulls Paige aside and offers to work with her but warns her that, if she continues to use material that focuses on her disability, she won’t likely get far. Paige is thrilled, though a bit nervous about the offer, but she accepts it, knowing it will bring her closer to her dream.
Stepping Out is a first person narrative and an accurate depiction of today’s pre-teens. The topic of vlogging and the possibility of online fame is very current, though I am not sure that this is a topic that will stand the test of time. That being said, Stepping Out is a relatable story that would be an enjoyable read for kids ages 9-12.
Laura Langston does a very good job of creating realistic characters that kids can see themselves in. The universal theme of stepping out of one’s comfort zone is handled realistically. Paige moves frequently between excitement, self-doubt and fear as she prepares for the competition. Her doubt is brought on by not only her own fears, but her sister’s comments (likely caused by jealousy.). Her excitement is also fuelled by the encouragement of her friends and teachers who believe in her.
Langston is able to walk the fine line of making Paige’s disability important and influential to Paige without making it the main focus of the book. It is another reason for Paige to feel doubtful about performing, but not the only reason. The clear message of not letting your disability define you is delivered by Paige’s idol, Raven Prest.
I enjoyed the characters, such as Raven Prest, and the school principal, Ms. Vastag, who interacted with Paige, helping to refocus her on what she can do well rather than on what she can’t do. Having these strong guiding adults who are honest with her is uplifting. I found all of the adults portrayed with a sense of realism, including Paige’s parents, who were apprehensive about Paige’s entering the contest, not because they were unsupportive, but because they wanted to protect her from the possibility of failure.
I recommend Stepping Out for pre-teens and teens as a quick and entertaining read, one that they will find relatable. The messages of courage and being comfortable in your own skin are ones that any child could benefit from.
Georgette Nairn is a teacher at Harold Hatcher School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.