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 and you will always find someone who argues that ‘Marvel films are for children,’ or the like. 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 because something is aimed at a particular audience, that if you fall outside that audience it 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 two timelines – exploring the story of Stanley Yelnats IV who proclaims that he is innocent of any crime he has been accused; further the novel explores the story of Camp Greenlake’s past when it was a thriving town. The novel also ventures into the tale of Elya Yelnats, whose 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 as insightful about the nature of young adolescents, as it is bluntly tongue-in-cheek. There are nuances and subtleties to his writing that invite the reader to explore further and fill-in-the-gaps in the storytelling to understand how every element of the past-and-present combine together in the narrative of falsely-accused Stanley Yelnats IV. It is a novel that is thematically rich in terms of exploring the concept of family, hierarchy, justice, and 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, this 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, but also so carefully edited and polished that it contains multiple levels of meaning for readers to piece together. And while children and young adults will find more in this work to identify with and enjoy, older readers can enjoy the subtlety of a well-constructed narrative.