( 9 )


Twelve-year-old Annabel thought Christmas break was going to be amazing. She'd planned to stay home in New York City with her best friend and do traditional things like go ice-skating in Rockefeller Center, hit the after-Christmas sale at Bloomingdale's, and scream with the TRL crowd at MTV in Times Square. But when her best friend bails, Annabel's mom decides it's high time Annabel visit her father and his new family in Australia.
Annabel is not pleased about traveling around ...

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The Steps

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Twelve-year-old Annabel thought Christmas break was going to be amazing. She'd planned to stay home in New York City with her best friend and do traditional things like go ice-skating in Rockefeller Center, hit the after-Christmas sale at Bloomingdale's, and scream with the TRL crowd at MTV in Times Square. But when her best friend bails, Annabel's mom decides it's high time Annabel visit her father and his new family in Australia.
Annabel is not pleased about traveling around the world to meet "the steps" — twelve-year-old fashion-disaster stepsister, five-year-old stepbrother, and baby half sister — but she's not going to waste this chance to steal her father back.

Over Christmas vacation, Annabel goes from her home in Manhattan to visit her father, his new wife, and her half- and step-siblings in Sydney, Australia.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Author of the highly praised teen novel Gingerbread, Rachel Cohn shifts down to a younger gear with this totally "graayate" page-turner about a New York City girl getting to know her new Aussie stepfamily.

When Annabel's dad (Jack) moves to Australia to live with his new wife (Penny) and her kids (Lucy and Angus), Annabel's only concern is to lure him back home. So when she goes to visit the clan in Sydney, this New York 12-year-old arrives with a serious attitude. Despite the warm hospitality from everyone -- especially 12-year-old Lucy -- nothing Down Under makes the grade, including the relaxed Aussie fashions, the strange food, or the way people speak. Soon, however, Annabel begins to actually have fun with her stepfamily, but after she takes a sneaky, anti-parent escape trip to Melbourne with Lucy, the entire group quickly realizes that uniting as a family -- no matter how disjointed -- is better than staying worlds apart.

With a sassy but thoughtful main character and a tone that keeps the book from getting too message heavy, The Steps is a lighthearted look at nontraditional families that will leave readers feeling sunnier and wiser. Cohn expertly develops her diverse cast so that no one is clichéd or predictable, and readers can even use the cool character flowchart on the book's cover to keep track of who's who. Annabel and her 21st-century family make for one "rip snorter" of a read. Shana Taylor

From the Publisher
School Library Journal, starred review Laugh-out-loud funny...

Publishers Weekly, starred review Readers will wait with bated breath for Cohn's next novel.

Publishers Weekly
12-year-old girl travels to Australia to visit her father and his new family with hopes of winning him back. "The author of Gingerbread once again creates a funny and feisty narrator caught in a complicated family situation," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Events force Annabel to come to terms with her jumbled extended stepfamilies in this funny modern tale. Annabel is memorable as a cool New Yorker with an eye for the well-coordinated outfit and scorn for her Aussie Steps and their less sophisticated ways. Cohn's book is full of amusing yet telling incidents and human emotions that are honestly portrayed. The pace never lags. This comes without the 'irreverent' qualities that characterized the author's book, Gingerbread. 2003, Simon & Schuster,
— Beth Guldseth
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The very with-it musings of Annabel, trying to figure out how to relate to a recently acquired "bazillion" step- and half-siblings with more on the way, are very cheerily portrayed by Caitlin Greer. Her rendition of a near-teen girl comes out perfectly voiced as she reads Rachel Cohn's novel (S&S, 2003). Providing an Australian accent for the down under set of steps proves a challenge, since those parts are quite large, especially the key same-age step Lucy. Greer doesn't miss a beat reading those characters, but the accent doesn't always come off perfectly. The preteen listeners who will find this cheerful and realistic book appealing aren't likely to notice and will appreciate the local color provided in the attempt. This story makes completely obvious the child's desire to be the one and only center of both parents' lives. But it allows the development of a more mature and accepting viewpoint as Annabel realizes that her adored father is a happier, more effectual person in his Sydney home, and that her Australian steps also have their difficulties with this new family arrangement. This character growth happens just in time for Annabel to discover that she will soon have a new set of steps when her mother remarries! This story convincingly portrays the feelings and attitudes of people trying to adjust to new family circumstances. A short contents note on the case tells what chapters are covered on each tape side, a feature that is helpful for coordinating book and tape. This is a fine choice for reluctant as well as more accomplished readers.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, Painted Post NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An oh-so-New-York 12-year-old struggles to sort out her relationship within what might be called the ultimate blended family (the front cover has a helpful diagram of all the relationships). Annabel has the sort of relationship with her parents where she calls them by their first names. Even after they split, all was pretty much okay until Jack moved to Australia to marry Penny, become Angus and Lucy’s stepdad--an eventuality that has Annabel seeing red--and father Beatrice. Annabel doesn’t really want to go to Australia over the Christmas break, but she does, hoping somehow to steal her father back. What she discovers, however, is that he’s happier than he ever was and is utterly disinclined to move home, however much he misses her. When Lucy and Annabel, at first enemies but later, convincingly, good friends, sneak off on a trans-Australia train trip, they set into motion a family crisis that brings all members of Annabel’s family to Sydney (including her new stepfather- and stepbrother-to-be; it’s been a busy vacation for her mother, too) in a sort of giant group hug that, however unlikely in the real world, is nevertheless a nicely satisfying way to end the story. It is a relatively predictable tale of raw feelings, jealousy, new friendships, and reconciliation, but it is enlivened both by Annabel’s sassy voice and by the acuity of her observations: "I had . . . never met them, and I knew that in those two years they would have developed a secret family language only they could understand." If there’s rather a lot of parent-to-child explaining about love and relationships, readers can still only hope that their own families can sort themselves out as well as Annabel’s. (Fiction.11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689874147
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/6/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 792,671
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel Cohn

Rachel Cohn is the bestselling author of You Know Where to Find Me, Gingerbread, Shrimp, Cupcake, Pop Princess, and, with David Levithan, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares as well as the tween novels The Steps and Two Steps Forward. Born in Washington, DC, she graduated from Barnard College in New York and has lived on both coasts. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

If you think it's hard keeping track of all the Steps in my life, try being me.

The Steps are the bazillion stepbrothers, stepsisters, and half siblings my parents keep laying on me. Follow this.

First, there are Angelina and Jack, my parents. I've called my parents by their first names for as long as I can remember. Maybe if they were normal parents who stayed together (or even bothered to get married), or maybe if they had regular day jobs, I would call them Mom and Dad, but that would be, like, so Brady Bunch, and we are so not Brady. Besides, Angelina and Jack were the ones who taught me to call them by their first names. Angelina said Mom was "too uptight a word" for her to hear, and Jack said being called Dad made him feel like an "old coot."

Angelina's an actress and Jack was a comedian. They met when they were both waiters at a hip restaurant in Manhattan. They were "young, dumb, 'n' in love," according to Bubbe, my grandma. They moved in together and had me. I'm Annabel Whoopi Schubert and I'm twelve years old, but I'm "going on thirteen with a vengeance," as Bubbe says.

After Angelina and Jack finished being "young, dumb, 'n' in love," they became yelling and fighting adult folks. After a couple really bad years being miserable all the time, they split up when I was nine.

Then Jack met Penny and moved to Australia to be with her. Penny has a daughter, Lucy, who is the same age as me, and a son, Angus, who's in kindergarten. They call it "kindie" in Australia. Jack thinks it's clever that those people in Australia are always cutting off words and adding ie to them, like noodies for noodles and brekkie for breakfast. I don't think it's clever. I think it's lazy. My baby half sister, Beatrice, who is the daughter of Jack and Penny and also the half sister of Lucy and Angus, will end up talking like that one day. Imagine that, my own blood sister, and she's going to speak with an Australian accent and cut off her words and end them in ie. Please.

Back to Angelina, my mom, who got way too into her role as PTA treasurer and started dating the president of the PTA, Harvey Weideman. Harvey is the divorced father of Wheaties, only the dorkiest kid in the whole seventh grade. I don't even remember Wheaties' real name. That's what we call him at our school, the Progress School on the Upper West Side. Wheaties is short and scrawny and goes around singing folk songs. He's the last boy you'd ever see on a cereal box. Now Angelina's pregnant, and she and Harvey are getting married, so I'm going to have another half sibling and another step. I wonder if I will be the first girl in the world with a stepbrother called Wheaties.

The other step is Lucy and Angus's former stepbrother, Ben. He's not my step technically, so I think it's okay that I kissed him once.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to Christmas break.

It all started because Lucy stole my dad.

Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Cohn

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First Chapter

Chapter 2

I didn't want to go to Sydney, Australia. I wanted to spend Christmas break in Manhattan with my best friend Justine. We had planned to go ice-skating at Rockefeller Center every day and shopping at the after-Christmas sale at Bloomingdale's. We were going to make prank phone calls to Wheaties and his geek friends and try on makeup at Sephora and then go scream with the TRL crowd at MTV in Times Square.

Then Justine bailed. Her parents decided to go skiing for the holidays. Wheaties stopped answering his phone. Angelina decided she was "so over" Jack moving to Australia and it was time for me to go see my dad. Angelina was going to some luau paradise in Hawaii with Wheaties' dad. Even Bubbe bailed on me. She went to Florida.

I had been so excited about hanging with Justine over the vacay that I hadn't considered going to see Jack or my new half sister, Beatrice. I didn't especially care about meeting the Steps for the first time. I wanted to stay home in New York City, the greatest city in all the world.

Well, I guess I really did want to see Jack, and I kinda wanted to see Beatrice because I wondered if my actual blood sister looked like me, but I totally, absolutely, completely did not want to go all the way to the Steps' turf in Australia. But I was stuck.

That whole plane ride to Australia I couldn't even watch the movies. I was too busy remembering what Lucy had done.

Jack was still living with us when I was nine, but he and Angelina fought all the time. One night Jack didn't come home at all after a late-night comedy gig. Angelina thought I was sleeping and didn't know, but I was awake and I heard her crying into the phone all night. When he finally came home early in the morning, I could hear him telling her over and over, nothing happened. Whatever didn't happen, Jack and Angelina were never right again. He moved out a month later. Soon after that Angelina and I moved into Bubbe's massive apartment, which overlooks Central Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

It was kind of cool for a while. Even though he lived in Brooklyn, I actually saw more of Jack once he and Angelina split. Probably because he and Angelina weren't always tired from constant fighting. He met me every day after school, and sometimes we'd go in-line skating in Central Park and other times we'd hang out at a coffee shop, talking and reading until dinnertime, and he coached my soccer team, and every Saturday we went to a movie together.

Then one Saturday he told me about this woman who had changed his life. Her name was Penny, and he'd met her when she was visiting from Australia. He loved her. He wanted to start a new life with her. He told me Penny had this ultimate, fantastic incredi-daughter named Lucy, who was just like me, and he knew I would love Lucy to death. He was moving to Australia to be with Penny and Lucy and Penny's son, Angus.

That's when things got bad.

Maybe he said he was moving to Australia to marry Penny, but part of me suspected he was moving to Australia to be with Lucy, too. Like she was a better daughter than me. Why else would a dad move ten thousand miles away to be with a new family?

The day Jack told me about his new family, he said, "Do I have your blessing?" I nodded and said yes because he's such a nice dad with the cutest face you ever saw and he looked so happy, but I crossed my fingers behind his back when I hugged him and really I was thinking no. Really I was thinking, Lucy can borrow you until I figure out how to win you back.

Things were really hard after Jack left. I cried alone in my room almost every night when Bubbe and Angelina thought I was sleeping. In my dreams I saw Jack wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat, holding the Steps' hands, with a koala bear hanging from his shoulders, and the Steps singing, "He's ours now, he's ours now, na-na-na-na-na." Not even the fact that Jack called me every week and sent letters and little presents from Australia could fill the huge black hole in my heart created by his leaving. Eventually I got used to missing him and I stopped crying alone at night, but I refused to talk to the Steps on the phone, and when Jack came to visit me a year later, before Beatrice was born, I pretended not to be interested when he tried to tell me about Sydney, Australia, and about Penny and the Steps.

But now I was stuck going to Australia for Christmas break. Bubbe and Angelina wanted me to go. Jack had sent me E-mail every day for weeks before my trip, telling me what clothes to pack and describing all the things he wanted us to do together, with the Steps.

While the plane taking me to meet the Steps floated over gray clouds and endless ocean for what seemed like forever, I stared at the pictures of Lucy and Angus and plotted the ways I was going to aggravate them so much that they would become such terrible children that Jack would return home to New York City with me, where he belonged. It was true, what Jack had said -- Lucy did look a little like me. She had light blond hair, only mine was longer and curlier and she had bangs and I didn't, and she had blue eyes and rosy cheeks and braces. Her braces were multicolored, which made her mouth look like a lollipop, I thought. I'm a traditionalist (that's what Bubbe says about me, because I like to watch old movies with her and look at all her old clothes from the '50s), so my braces are solid silver. I think multicolored lollipop-looking braces are too flashy, and I should know. One day I'm going to be a famous fashion designer.

Just looking at her pictures, I knew that Lucy was a fashion no-no. Angus, I could see from his pictures, was also hopeless. He had a mop of wild, curly blond hair and thick glasses, and -- get this -- in his picture he was wearing neon-colored striped pants with a paisley-print T-shirt that had a picture of a fish on it! I knew my first order of business when I got to Australia would be to speak with Penny about properly dressing Angus. I know what happens on the playground to kids who dress badly, because I have been torturing Wheaties about his fashion sense since nursery school.

I admit, all the time on the plane that I was thinking of ways to torture Lucy and Angus -- like Plan A, accidentally spitting my bubble gum into their hair and then trying to take it out but really getting it gooed thick and impossible throughout their head, or Plan B, teaching them to make Jack's favorite "Famous New York-Style Spaghetti" with a whole cup of salt and a whole jar of olives (Jack's most hated food) -- I was also worried. Jack had been living with Penny, Lucy, and Angus for two years. Beatrice, our new baby half sister, was almost a year old. Jack had been back to America to visit me in the two years since he'd moved to Australia, but I had still never met them, and I knew that in those two years they would have developed a secret family language only they could understand.

Bubbe, Angelina, and I have our own special understandings, how we know one another's feelings and thoughts without having to say them. Like how Bubbe knows when I did bad on a math test by the way I hug her when she meets me after school and how she'll make me turn the television off later in the evening and go over fractions and equations while we bake cookies, or how Angelina knows when I have been crying secretly in my room from missing Jack and she'll cancel an audition to take me to a half-price Broadway show or to a baseball game, like Jack used to do before Penny, Lucy, and Angus took him away. Or how I know when Angelina is bummed because she didn't get an acting part and I will make her a cappuccino, turn on the stereo, and put on what I call the sad-lady music -- all these really cool ladies from like a million years ago with names like Dinah, Billie, and Etta, who sing about love and loss and what a difference a day makes.

Then there's my Bubbe. I can tell she is thinking about my dead grandpa when it's raining and she goes and sits on her plush chair and stares out the windows looking onto Central Park for hours and hours. When I see her like that, sometimes I'll curl up on her lap and nestle my head on her shoulder, and she'll tell me stories about my dead grandpa, about how they met when they were both campaigning in the 1950s for some guy called Adlai Stevenson (Adlai!) who wanted to be president, about their first date riding a boat on the Hudson River, circling Manhattan, and how they drove to Maryland a week later to get married and never looked back. "Grandpa sure wanted to see you grow into a young lady," she'll say. Bubbe likes to hear the sad-lady music too.

Two years had passed without me there to crack the secret family code that would have developed among Jack, Penny, Lucy, Angus, and Beatrice. I wondered if Lucy had figured out that on cold nights Jack loved to drink real hot chocolate not made from a mix, or that when he performed a bad set and the audience never laughed, that afterward, to cheer up, he liked to eat peanut M&Ms and watch Nick at Nite shows like The Odd Couple and Bewitched, but never ever I Love Lucy.

How I was going to figure out their secret family language and still manage to steal Jack back, I really, truly did not know. That's right, I, Annabel Whoopi Schubert, middle-namesake of Whoopi Goldberg, seventh-grade class president at the Progress School on the Upper West Side, future fashion designer whose clothes will one day be featured in every important fashion mag in the whole wide world, did not know how to win my dad back.

Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Cohn

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2011


    i really related to this book i would suggest it for people who enjoy hearing about a teenage girl conquer her problems in a funny and entertaining way

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2006

    best book ever!!

    i really liked this book. i was so interested to know what happened to lucy and annabelle, i couldnt put the book down and i just kept on reading, i finished it in an hour! its one of the best books i have ever read... now do you think you should buy and read this book?!?!?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2006

    I LOVE IT!!!

    I love this book. It relates to a lot of people that are going through what Annabel is going through. Annabel is a cool, spunky and New York chick. She enjoys life except her dad Jack and his new family in Sydney Austrailia. She somewhat feels that he loves them better and that she is suddenly going to hate her new family. She somehow gets stuck going to Sydney with her ' New' family for the Christmas Holiday. While she is there she learns suddenly that other people struggle like her and has many adventures running around Australia with her new step, Lucy. This book is awesome and I totally recommend you to read it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2005

    A Good Book

    This book is about a girl who has so much family...she just doesn't know what to do with them! Growing up, she never called her parents, Mom and Dad, but rather by their first names, Jack and Angelina. Her parents never married each other but instead went to on other relationships and more 'Steps'. When her mom and grandma decide to each go on a separate vacation for Christmas and her best friend bails on their plans, Annabel is forced to go visit Jack and his new family of 'Steps' in Australia. How will she react? Will she be able to win her dad over the steps; well I guess you'll just have to read the book to find out yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004


    This is one of the greatest books i have ever read... Cohn is such a good writer. It's also one of the Texas Lonestar Books for you Middle Schoolers!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2004

    The Steps

    Although written as fiction, The Steps can teach you a lot about the real world of stepbrothers and stepsisters. The books¿ setting is in Manhattan where the main character lives with her mom. She goes to Sydney, Australia, where her dad lives with his new wife and daughter, to spend her Christmas vacations. The main character, Annabel, is a preteen, who is class president of her 7th grade class. She has a lot of stepbrothers, stepsisters, and half siblings. She¿s jealous of her dad¿s new family. She wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. This book has a lot of dialog, which seems appropriate for the setting and personalities of the characters. It has changing moods of jealousy, competition, madness, sadness, and happiness. The Steps has a great moral, and its purpose is to teach you that if you have stepbrothers or stepsisters you should try to get along with them and be friends. The Steps is written for preteens that are friendly that get jealous, and for preteens that like to be with their friends. I think this book is interesting, the storyline is very creative, the voice of the characters is very well developed and I really enjoyed the book. The author, Rachel Cohn, did a wonderful job on everything but she did the best job on conveying a meaningful message in an interesting way and creating a believable setting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2004

    The best..........

    This was an excellent book that really showed what it is like when life throws you a hardhall. Annabel changes in the end and this book teaches you that things are not as bad as they seem!! I read this book once and look forward to reading it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2003


    Pre-teens will readily relate to this story of 12-year-old Annabel's adjustment to her unique family, and they'll respond to an artful reading by Caitlin Greer who successfully switches accents as the tale is told. Annabel was used to being a doted upon only child even though her parents had never made it to the altar. Then, her Dad found a new family and a new life in Australia. Annabelle's a little uppity and sometimes sassy. More importantly, she's jealous of her Dad's new family. The 'Steps' in her case are the legion of relatives she has just acquired. Now, she's off to spend Christmas with her Dad, hoping that she can persuade him to come back to the U.S. However, she soon realizes how happy he is in Australia. Now what? With both understanding and humor the author paints a truthful portrait of a young girl coping with the changes in her life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

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