Friday, 28 August 2015

Holes by Louis Sachar

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Land Beyond Goodbye and Don’t Look Down (

What We Thought: According to family legend, Stanley Yelnats’ great great grandfather, also called Stanley Yelnats, was cursed by a one-legged Gypsy for stealing a pig. Generations on, the Yelnats family is still dogged by bad luck and trouble. Our Stanley, an overweight teenager, is convicted for a small crime he did not commit and sent to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake, and no green either.

Along with the other ‘bad boys’, Stanley has to dig a hole five foot wide and five foot deep every day out in the burning desert. Stanley accepts this fate philosophically, despite the many injustices heaped upon him. Soon it becomes apparent to him that the hole-digging is not simply a random punishment set by the dreaded Warden; there is a reason for it which he alone has realised.

As he grows leaner and fitter, Stanley finds himself able to fit in with and stand up to the other young offenders. When his friend Zero gets into trouble and runs off into the desert, Stanley decides to try to find him. There’s a big rocky outcrop that looks like it’s giving him the thumbs up way in the distance and he’s sure it’s connected with his great great grandfather. Stanley sets off on his quest to solve the riddle of the holes, lift the family curse, and save Zero from dying (if he’s still alive, that is).

This is a wonderfully quirky book, funny and fantastical. The teenage protagonist may make it seem a book for younger readers but the writing, language and twisted plot will draw in adults without any problem. The heat of the desert is palpable, the characters are great, and Stanley may just steal your heart.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: If You’re Reading this I’m Already Dead; The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared; and such like.

Avoid if you dislike: Teenage protagonists.

Ideal accompaniments: Lots of cool clear water and some fermented peach ‘Sploosh’.

Genre: Literary/General Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult.

Available on Amazon

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