I had seen the movie. It was popular, in its time, with the kids. I wasn’t especially impressed. But I knew that didn’t mean I wouldn’t like the book. So when I found myself at a Cracker Barrell in upstate New York, facing a solo twelve-hour drive and perusing the audio book rentals, this one seemed like a pretty good choice. (I had to keep it kid-friendly since the kids would be ignoring me in the back seat, so I grabbed this and The Giver, which I will review soon.)
Called a “young adult, mystery, comedy novel” by Wikipedia (can that be right?), the idea is that Stanley Yelnats has been mistakenly convicted of stealing, which isn’t surprising because his family is cursed. He is sentenced to time at a juvenile facility in the middle of nowhere. The place is typical, at least in trope, and there are unfriendly kids, a tyrannical manager (or two), and all sorts of things you aren’t allowed to write home about, including the incessant digging of six-foot holes. The history of the place and of Stanley’s family starts weaving into the narrative, and you want to know how this all ties together, if the bad guys are going to get it, and how Stanley could become our hero. It’s light-hearted, if not a bit cliche.
It was a really good book, surprisingly so. There were times that the two stories (past and present) felt like I really was skipping back and forth between two stories, awkwardly so. But this was also part of why I liked the book. I loved the creative and variant chapter lengths, styles, and interweaving stories. Loved the bits, too, that were subtly magic realism. Also loved the way everything felt like it was going to work together and it did. Perhaps one or two things were too much of a give-away, but it was still nice. I even liked the ending, how it tied things up but didn’t overdo it or feel trite (and I know some literary fiction or modern fiction readers would find it too clean. So what?).
It’s a very short review, I know, but in conclusion, this book is creative and a great read for a kid–especially a boy–middle grades, who can handle themes of juvenile delinquency, bullying, etc.
I listened to the audiobook version of Holes by Louis Sachar (the author of the Wayside School books). The book was first published in 1998, by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It has won a U.S. National Book Award and a Newbury Medal.
I actually gave this movie a second chance, after having “read” it. I watched with my kids. We staying interested, and I liked it better having known and appreciated the story. Still not a great movie, though. Pretty typical for something coming out of the cheap end of the Disney conglomerate. But a decent way to kill some time.