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Louis Sachar – Holes

January 4, 2012

163. Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

Length: 272 pages
Genre: Mid-Grade Contemporary Fiction (although with a dose of magical realism)

Started / Finished: 23 December 2011

Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? I’d heard about this book, both in terms of the Newbery, and the hubbub around the 2003 movie, and wanted to see what the fuss was about.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 15 October 2006.

Falsely charged with a
crime, Stanley’s in a “hole” lot
of trouble. Get it?

Summary: It’s Stanley Yelnats’ first time going to camp – but Camp Green Lake isn’t your ordinary kind of camp. For starters, there is no lake, nothing is green, and the only camp activity is digging holes… and each camper must dig one 5’x5′ hole, every day, in the blistering Texas sun. Stanley’s not even really supposed to be there – he’s innocent of the crime which got him sent to Camp Greenlake – but now he’ll have to find a way to survive, just like everyone else. But he pretty quickly comes to realize that there’s something more to all the digging than just punishment… but what is the warden really looking for?

Review: This book was definitely cute, and certainly put a smile on my face. I was expecting a more straightforward (and less magical-realism-filled) story than it actually was. (Which, in hindsight, was a silly expectation, given the wackiness of Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School books, which I absolutely loved back in the day.) So I was pleasantly surprised with the interweaving of Stanley’s story with the stories of his great-grandfather and a wild-west outlaw, as well as by the various bizarre-yet-fitting flourishes throughout. I was also impressed that Holes managed to bring up some pretty serious subjects, but never felt dark, or like it was being pointedly provocative. On the flip-side, though, I thought that all of the historical stories made the outcome of Stanley’s quest pretty easy to predict, although that might just be because I’m a jaded grown-up.

Overall, this was a quick, fun read, good for a light distraction, but not something that’s likely to stay with me. While I enjoyed this book, and can certainly understand why it won the awards that it did, it didn’t quite blow me away. However, I think that’s mostly due to my mismatch with the target audience – mid-grade books (that don’t have the force of nostalgia on their side) rarely manage to knock my socks off, but I can definitely see kids of both sexes (but especially boys) devouring this book. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for the mid-grade readers in your life, and as a fun diversion for grown-ups as well.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Alison’s Book Marks, Book Addiction, Books and Movies, Books Love Me, Confessions of a Bibliovore, Kay’s Bookshelf, MariReads
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 8:39 am

    Loved this book! Read it waaaay back. Then I caught a glimpse of the film version starring Shia LaBeouf (if I’m not mistaken) and it looked pretty faithful (didn’t have the time then to actually sit down and watch the entire film).

    • January 4, 2012 9:48 am

      I haven’t seen the film, but I did love the book back when it came out. 1998 seems so long ago…

      • January 5, 2012 1:49 pm

        Grace – It does, yet it doesn’t. I remember 1998 pretty well, so it can’t have been *that* long ago, right… but then I think about it, and yeah, it was.

    • January 5, 2012 1:48 pm

      Lightheaded – I’ve got the movie at the top of my Netflix queue. I had no interest in it when it came out, but now that I’ve read the book, I’m curious…

  2. January 4, 2012 11:14 am

    I keep thinking I should read this one of these days, but then never actually do so…

    • January 5, 2012 1:50 pm

      Kailana – It’s fast, fast, fast, so if you do pick it up, it won’t take you much time at all.

  3. January 4, 2012 7:31 pm

    I do think that youngsters don’t always feel the same way about predictability as jaded adults do. This book sounds like a winner!

    • January 5, 2012 1:51 pm

      Kathy – I wonder how much of it is not caring when something is predictable, and how much of it is not being able to predict as well?

  4. January 4, 2012 10:14 pm

    Did that movie really come out in 2003? You mean it’s been eight years and I still haven’t got around to seeing it? Oh well… I did read the book all the way back when I was the target age group, and I remember really enjoying it. It might have helped being the right age!

    • January 5, 2012 1:52 pm

      Cheryl – Wow, 2003 really was 8 years ago, huh? At least that means that Shia LeBoeuf will be close to the right age…

  5. January 5, 2012 12:02 am

    This one has been on my TBR list for about as long as it was on yours. I should dig it out…

    • January 5, 2012 1:54 pm

      Jessica – Honestly, the only reason I read it when I did is that I was traveling over the holidays, and looking for books on my TBR pile that were *also* available as e-book checkouts from my library, so I could just bring my Kindle with me rather than a stack of books. Got me to read a few books that I’d been letting sit in the TBR pile for years, though!

  6. Bill Woods permalink
    January 5, 2012 3:10 am

    The movie’s pretty good. Sachar co-wrote the screenplay. In addition to LaBeouf, it stars Sigourney Weaver as the Warden, and Jon Voight as Mr. Sir.

    Sachar wrote a sequel to _Holes_ which I haven’t read, and _The Cardturner_, which I enjoyed. It helps to be familiar with the game of bridge, as Sachar obviously is.

    • January 5, 2012 1:56 pm

      Bill – Sachar’s got a ton of books… I read several of them when I was in the right age group, but this is the first of his that I’ve read since.

  7. January 6, 2012 9:56 am

    I really enjoyed the book and the movie. The story is just simply fun.

    • January 7, 2012 9:27 am

      Trisha – And sometimes, something fun is all you really need!

  8. January 8, 2012 6:32 pm

    I am awfully fond of this book. You’re right that it’s not unpredictable, but it’s one of the best-structured books I’ve ever read. It’s so nicely set up! All the set-up and all the pay-off. It’s elegant.

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