Holes | Book Review


Louis Sachar is an American young adult-mystery-comedy author and is best known for the Wayside School series and the novel Holes. He was born on March 20, 1954 in New York and currently resides in Austin, Texas.


Novel, Children’s literature, Satire, Young adult fiction, Adventure fiction. [Courtesy of Google]


Holes by Louis Sachar is one of those books that stay on your mind long after you’ve read it. It is tagged ‘Children’s Literature’ and it sure is a great book for children. But in order to grasp the subtle dark and realistic references, the reader needs to be open minded and well, realistic.

This novel touches on a lot of themes such as friendship, compassion, racism, punishment, justice, love, discrimination, just to name a few. Louis Sachar has done a splendid job in entwining the past and the present of the protogonists’ lives. Coming to the plot, the book is about Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is falsely accused of theft and sent to a juvenile reformation camp in the middle of nowhere where the boys are made to dig holes everyday. I really loved the sarcasm that was present throughout the book even though, it wasn’t evident immediately. The names that the boys have given each other at camp is also an example of the childlike nature that underlies the whole book. In the quote below, ‘Caveman’ refers to Stanley Yelnats; the name because of his huge size.

“Well, let me tell you something, Caveman. You are here on account of one person. If it wasn’t for that person, you wouldn’t be here digging holes in the hot sun. You know who that person is?” “My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”

The author has done a marvellous job of presenting flashback stories and making it coincide with the present day happenings. There is an old aura to all the past references and it is intriguing to go through them. The descriptions of both the characters and the landscapes are wonderfully carried out. As this book deals with boys who around 14-15 years old, the author has also addressed the issues of discrimination and racism in a bold and insightful manner. This is evident through the mentions of Stanley who is picked on for being fat and a few boys at the camp who are black. The problem of bullying has also been addressed and Stanley has been portrayed as the typical friendless,bullied boy. However, his perspective towards life is appreciable and inspiring. Having befriended a boy nicknamed Zero, Stanley’s compassion take the front seat and the story progresses on in an even more suspenseful manner.

“In a way, it made him sad. He couldn’t help but think that a hundred times zero was still nothing.”

As Zero comes into the story, we initially see a passive and reserved boy who everyone thinks is worthless, hence the name, Zero. But as the story progresses, we see him in a whole another light; a boy with innate wisdon, hardened by life. The growing friendship between Stanley and Hector(Zero) has been portrayed beautifully with an equal amount of attention being paid to both their and their ancestors’ stories. Hector, who is well known for being the fastest digger, is an innocent boy who had been subjected to hardships more than necesssary. Having been termed ‘A Ward of the State’, Hector has no family to return to after his reformation period at the camp. However, his grit and courage is evident throughout the story.

“When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up.” (Zero/Hector)

Cruelty and neglect have also been portrayed in the form of the Warden who runs the camp. The Warden is a person with no regard for human life, and is the usual villain who has been working for years to achieve a selfish goal. The fact that the boys are not given sufficient water inspite of the work they are made to do is also another example; but of course the fact that the camp is in the middle of a desert justifies the lack of water.

There are certain instances in the book when we read things that we have to ponder on for days and other instances where sensitive topics are addressed in a casual manner. Death and punishment have been looked upon as trivial matters while impressing on the reader’s mind the importance and weight of such matters at the same time. The conflict and personal thoughts that the characters have , have also been shown perfectly with emphasis on certain points. I didn’t like the ending even though it fitted the storyline perfectly. Something about it seemed out of place. However, in no way does it tarnish what is otherwise, an insightful and intriguing novel.

Given below is a quote taken from a part in the book where Stanley faces the threat of dying.

“In fact, maybe at the moment of his death he would be too weak to feel pain. Death would be a relief. What worried him the most was the thought of his parents not knowing what happened to him, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. He hated to imagine what it would be like for his mother and father, day after day, month after month, not knowing, living on false hope. For him, at least, it would be over. For his parents, the pain would never end.”

All in all, the book has a sophisticated and an unrealistic aura to it; much like the vibe that Lemony Snicket’s works give off. But the two writers are fabulous in exhibiting the same aura in their own unique and completely different ways. It suits both children and adults alike; teaching a different lesson to each age group. The themes of treasure hunting and friendship come across as welcoming, but as we delve deeper into the book, we realise the true weight of it and the impact it has on its varying readership. Looking over the ending, Holes by Louis Sachar makes a delightful and inspiring read.

“If only, if only, the moon speaks no reply;
Reflecting the sun and all that’s gone by.
Be strong my weary wolf, turn around boldly.
Fly high, my baby bird,
My angel, my only.


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