Holes, by Louis Sachar, was published in 1998 by Yearling.
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. 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 that Camp Green Lake isn’t what it seems .Are the boys digging holes because the warden is looking for something? But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? It’s up to Stanley to dig up the truth.
I love Holes. I consider the movie with Shia LeBeouf to be one of the most faithful film adaptations of a book out there (plus, it has Dulé Hill/Gus from Psych as Sam), so I really enjoyed picking this book up again.
Holes is wacky, unbelievable fun, basically. The whole premise revolves around this detention camp that troubled teenagers are sent to instead of going to jail. At the camp, they dig holes, because why not? While there, Stanley uncovers (dare I say, digs up) secrets about the Warden, the nature of the camp, and his own past.
There’s a whole lot of convenience to the plot, but it’s already so out there as a premise that it’s really not hard to swallow all the convenience, too. And at the end of the book, Sachar pokes fun, a little, at the camp and the things the Warden got away with, so as strange as it is, it works.
I’m not sure why Holes won a Newbery Medal, but I’m glad it did. While the main plot with Stanley is wacky, the story-within-a-story that is told as the novel goes on is heartbreaking. The story of Katherine and Sam is the real jewel of the story; simplistic on the surface, but with so much packed in underneath. Sachar conveys the thoughts and feelings of the time in a few pages that reveals all of its unfairness before you even realize it. Furthermore, the tie-in is good, too; Sachar weaves all the stories together in fantastic fashion, connecting everything together in simple, yet effective, ways.
Holes is a great book. It’s fun, memorable, and has more moments of heartbreak, tension, and emotion than you might expect from the premise. It makes me want to watch the movie, really, but it also makes me glad that I reread this book and got to experience it all over again.
Recommended Age Range: 8+
Genre: Children’s, Realistic
“I’m finished,” Stanley said, putting his blood-spotted cap back on his head.
“All right!” said Mr. Pendanski, raising his hand for a high five, but Stanley ignored it. He didn’t have the strength.
(…) Mr. Pendanski climbed back into the truck without filling Stanley’s canteen. Stanley waited for him to drive away, then took another look at his hole. He knew it was nothing to be proud of, but he felt proud nonetheless.