Author: Louis Sachar
Year Of Publication: 1998
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult
Reading young adult fiction as a man presents its own set of challenges, of course, but “Holes” (for me at least) resists the kind of natural decay books undergo over a decade without use.
The first thing you need to know about “Holes” is that it takes place at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility. The second thing you need to know about “Holes” is that there’s no lake at Camp Green Lake, and the scenery certainly isn’t green.
We follow Stanley Yelnats, a 14-year-old sent to Camp Green Lake once he’s convicted of stealing a pair of shoes. But not just any shoes, a pair that belonged to a famous baseball player (Clyde Livingston) and were to be auctioned off for the benefit of a local children’s orphanage. Stanley says he didn’t, yet here the book starts. With him in the middle of an 8-hour bus ride through the Texas emptiness.
At Camp Green Lake, Stanley lives with a group of other young, troublemaking men. All of whom, over the course of the story, are given their time in the sun. Of particular importance is Zero, who seems for a while to have no personality nor possess the requisite facial muscles to produce spoken words.
Stanley and Zero become friends through a trade of services: Stanley will teach Zero to read if Zero will dig part of Stanley’s hole each day. Because that’s the kind of camp this is.
Each day, campers are required to dig holes five feet deep and five feet across in all directions. Vitruvian holes, one might say. It becomes clear the camp warden is not interested in building character, rather, she’s looking for something specific. As for what that is, flashbacks sprinkled throughout bring the story together.
This side of the Harry Potter series (and sorry to keep name checking Harry Potter, L2liens), “Holes” is one of the most clever and well-constructed young adult novels, certainly of my quarter century of life. The author, Sachar, can be cute or convenient at times, but the strength of the main narrative certainly excuses any overwrought melodrama or eye-roll moments.
And, sure it’s a little silly. But what did you expect when you opened a book and found a main character whose last name is his first name spelled backward?
Figure it out.
Verdict: It’s a young adult novel, my people. It’s supposed to be fun.