And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held “the largest lake in Texas,” but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.
The trouble started when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball great Clyde “Sweetfeet” Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the judge doesn’t believe Stanley’s claim that the shoes fell from the sky onto his head. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley doesn’t blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames the whole misadventure on his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.
At Camp Green Lake, the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his own search—for the truth.
Fate conspires to resolve it all—the family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow, an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.
HOLES makes it onto many must-read MG book lists, and for a good reason. It’s strange and unique, but also entertaining and well-written. It’s one of the few great “boy” novels in YA that doesn’t address sports at all.
The best elements to HOLES are the narrative and the relationships. The narrative is well-formatted and easy to understand even though it has several different aspects to it, including a long history that ties into Camp Green Lake. That, and Louis Sachar’s writing is perfect for this novel.
The relationships in HOLES, specifically the friendship between Zero and Stanley, were great. I liked the positive relationship that they shared, and the fact that both of them had their own emotional baggage, difficulties and faults without letting that get in the way of the book.
Stanley is a strong character who’s just a regular guy, but he’s a survivor. He adapts quickly to Camp Green Lake and becomes respected by the boys of the camp. I loved his character and was rooting for him with every page.
This is a great novel and it deserves the hype around it.
pg count for the paperback: 233
Sequel: Small Steps
Companion: Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake