Book review: Holes by Louis Sachar

Part of me is ashamed that I haven’t read this book before now. The other part of me is ashamed that now that I’ve read it, I actually wish I hadn’t. So yeah, not exactly a feel good book for me.

Also, I have never been more pleased that I read the book rather than watching the film. Obviously, there is NEVER a time when this statement isn’t true but if a book given that the book barely managed to keep my attention, I strongly suspect that I wouldn’t find the film particularly gripping! On the plus side, the Holes film may actually be able to achieve the holy grail of book adaptations and actually cover everything that happened. Primarily because nothing really happens.

In a colossal case of misunderstanding, Stanley is arrested for a crime he hasn’t committed and shipped off to the world’s weirdest and cruellest young offenders “camp” in the world where the inmates have to dig a hole in the desert every day. It soon becomes clear that this isn’t just a character building exercise and that the Warden is actually searching for something very valuable. After running away with a fellow inmate, Stanley begins to wonder whether there is a way he can use all this to his advantage.

Okay, so seriously now, there is a lot more going on in this book than the story; Holes is absolutely jam-packed with themes – friendship, fate & destiny and justice & punishment all feature pretty heavily, making it easy to understand why it is studied in so many secondary schools now.

  • The irony that Stanley finally finds happiness in the harsh setting of Camp Green Lake, a place that he has been sent for punishment makes for interesting post reading contemplation.
  • The dull descriptions of most days at the camp mirrors the feelings that the boys have and offers a stark contrast when something does happen.
  • The clever weaving of flashbacks to Kate Barlow’s origins and the events that lead to her turning Highwaywoman leads us to very clearly understand the message that people are shaped by the way they are treated by others and question what the treatment of the boys at the camp will do for their futures.

All of these things make for a great book, I don’t deny that. Holes is a masterclass in thematic writing that you could spend many interesting weeks studying in class and unwrapping the layers of BUT my school days ended almost 15 years ago now and this just isn’t what I look for in a book anymore.

I absolutely would recommend this book, but be prepared to spend time processing it afterwards, and possibly to get more out of that time than the time you spend actually reading Holes.

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