Holes | Louis Sachar
Holes #1 | 233 pages | 2000
Young Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – New favorite! Read it now!
From the Back of the Book
“Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day, digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improving going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment – and redemption.”
Holes was published in 1998 which was smack dab in the middle of my elementary school years, so every one was reading it. This book provided a nice break to the Harry Potter craze, but it had a lot of similarities, including:
- Male main character gets “sent away” because of his circumstances.
- Male main character makes friends with characters in similar situation.
- Some authority figures seem friendly, while others seem to have other motives and intentions.
- Tedious work plagues characters.
- Mysterious event pique main character’s interest.
- Main character and friends set out to solve mystery.
Young readers would enjoy Holes, specially those in upper elementary and middle school. The book is filled with likeable and funny characters that are faced with uncertainty and mystery. Louis Sachar plans out a story that seems basic and easy to understand, yet fills it with complications that add to the story’s brilliance. Yes, I did compare it to Harry Potter, but the story is a memorable one that will stay with readers throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
As an adult rereading Holes, there were not a lot of weaknesses with this book. There were moments that dragged a little bit, but for the most part Holes was a flawless book.
With the recommendation aimed at students in upper elementary and middle school, I think that younger readers may become confused by the time shifts occurring in the book. These time shifts were important because they provided important background details and perspectives of Stanley’s ancestors in the second half of the book.
I think these time switches could have been introduced better with dates to indicate the shift/switch happening. Something like “Green Lake – 1850” or “Camp Green Lake – present” at the beginning of the chapters would have been ideal.
The reader faced a ton of questions to consider while they were reading Holes such as:
- Who was the great-great-grandfather?
- Why did he steal a pig?
- How else has Stanley’s family been impacted by the bad luck?
Sachar explained all of these questions and more with the backstory and history behind Stanley’s family and Camp Green Lake, and did a solid job with foreshadowing and symbolism.
Why Did I Read This Book?
Recently, while adding books to the Classroom Library, I came across a book called Small Steps. I noticed it was written by Sachar. Whenever I come across a book that looks interesting, I always look it up on Goodreads. When I did that I found out that Small Steps is the sequel to Holes!? The purist in me had me reread Holes to be able to see what the next part of the story was. This is why I reread Holes and it was just like how I remembered it – a high quality read.