I read very few youth novels, but bought STEPPING SOLO as background for an interview with the author. As this story won the Maskew Miller Longman 2011 award for youth novels, I expected an unrelentingly dark and serious novel.
STEPPING SOLO is gritty and realistic. As we share four days in the life of 18-year-old Ketso Chilwane, we gain a depressing snapshot of the problems facing the youth of South Africa: AIDS, poverty, child abuse, violence and the lure of alcohol and drugs.
If that sounds grim, it is…and yet STEPPING SOLO is essentially a story of hope. Bauling's refusal to skim over the bleakness of the future facing many young people is tempered by the encouraging example of teenagers who, despite seemingly overwhelming problems, grow in confidence and courage with which they can, perhaps, build a better life for themselves.
Very well-written, for the story remains firmly in young Ketso's voice, the text also contains an excellent section at the end which enhances the reading experience for young readers by means of questions, summaries and a glossary.