What is Holes?
Holes is one of those novels which is pure hearted, and essentially clever. It is a work of entertainment that entertains on multiple levels. And while the writing style is never overly complex – it does not need to be. It is a complete work in and of itself.
One of the gripes of modern culture is about modern entertainment that is ‘too childish.’ Go to any social media site and read through discussions about Marvel films versus DC films for instance. You will always find someone who argues that ‘Marvel films are for children.’ The same argument will be raised that the American R-rating standard (Australian MA 15+ standard) should be applied to more of these superhero films. The issue however is the assumption that if you fall outside the target audience a work of art cannot be any good. Holes is the type of novel that challenges this – essentially targeted at pre-teens to young teenagers, but still an entertaining read for older audiences if you consider the mystery and the themes of the novel as an aspect of the novel’s charm.
The novel is essentially a story set in a camp designed to teach juvenile delinquents discipline. However, as the protagonist Stanley Yelnats IV discovers, the form of discipline at Camp Greenlake exists for an entirely different purpose. The novel zips between three timelines. First exploring the story of Stanley Yelnats IV who proclaims that he is innocent of any crime he has been accused. Secondly, the novel explores the story of Camp Greenlake’s past when it was a thriving town. Thirdly, the novel also ventures into the tale of Elya Yelnats. His pig-stealing exploits lead the family into a terrible curse meaning that nothing but poverty and tragedy have befallen the Yelnats clan across many generations.
Louis Sachar writes with a sincerity that is insightful about the nature of young adolescents. Even as it is bluntly tongue-in-cheek. There are nuances and subtleties to his writing that invite the reader to explore further. To fill-in-the-gaps in the storytelling to understand how every element of the past-and-present combine together. And conclude in the narrative of falsely-accused Stanley Yelnats IV. It is a novel that is thematically rich. Particularly in terms of exploring the concept of family, hierarchy, and justice. And also the nature of multi-generational curses. But it is also a humorously entertaining story that moves at a fast pace. Allowing even the slowest of readers the opportunity to finish the novel in a few brief sittings.
In short, Holes is the kind of novel that can be enjoyed by many generations. As much as the novel itself is a story about multiple generations and the effect of history upon the present. It is disarmingly simple. Yet it is also so carefully edited and polished. Meaning that it contains multiple levels of meaning for readers to piece together. Children and young adults will find more in this work to identify with and enjoy. Yet older readers can enjoy the subtlety of a well-constructed narrative.
Themes and Ideas8.5 /10
Unique Plot, Characters or Worlds8.5 /10
- Great humour
- Unique plotting and sequence of events
- Clever use of flashbacks and a dual narrative with the past affecting the present
- Casual writing style that appears to its target audience and may not appeal to all readers
- The ideas are unique and creative but may appear cheesy to some
- Some of the twists may seem too telegraphed