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Review: Holes by Louis Sachar
Regardless of Holes being aimed at young boys, anyone from around twelve and upwards can be entertained and enlightened writes Naomi Toseland

by Louis Sachar
Bloomsbury, 240pp

A book entitled Holes should be the least exciting thing since sponges, but Louis Sachar’s
book is one full of intrigue, comedy and that universal ache that keeps everyone feeling they could be doing something better with their lives, rather than just digging holes. Metaphorical holes obviously, unless you’re a landscape gardener, in which case long may your hole digging continue.

The book follows the misadventures of overweight anti-hero Stanley Yelnats, who is a
normal kid apart from having a ‘no good pig stealing great-great grandfather’ and a family curse that hangs over his head. Stanley is wrongly arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers (the book is American) from a sporting superstar, and thrown into a camp where ‘digging holes builds character’. The camp is run by a Warden (who is not unlike the Emperor from Star Wars), and side-kick Mr Sir, giving any reader villains to despise and admire simultaneously.

Unlike many books aimed at children (that adults secretly enjoy as well), the protagonist
actually has a personality; sure he is a good, dependable friend. But he also has a sense of humour and an unpredictable streak when he is pushed too far. This makes the story far more enjoyable than if he was a young boy bound by his upstanding morals, leaving us as the reader bound for boredom. As fascinating as Stanley, and the other hole digging boys are, the brief glimpses of his family history and his ‘no good pig stealing great-great grandfather’, bring in a sense of piecing a puzzle together, and slowly reveals the reasoning behind the ‘family curse’, pulling you in magnificently. You may even find out who really stole the expensive sneakers and framed him.

All of the stories and characters past and present are intertwined and give a very six degrees of separation vibe, which is extremely clever and comes across effortlessly. Upon discovering that a certain person (I don’t want to spoil it for you) is a descendant of someone involved with the Yelnats ‘family curse’ you will no doubt be hooked and want to see where Sachar is taking it, if you weren’t already.

If you’re of a more philosophical mind you would no doubt realise that Stanley, like many of us feels that no matter how hard he tries, the world will always be against him. Although it sounds incredibly cheesy, unlike many of us, he chooses not to give up, he plods on and digs his holes, determined to get through his hardships. He doesn’t complain, though it is obvious that he hates his situation, and the resolution of the story leaves you feeling as though the holes you’re digging may actually lead you somewhere unexpected too. Isn’t that what a good book does? Subtly persuades you to examine yourself and learn something about your own life? Regardless of this being aimed at young boys, anyone from around twelve and upwards can be entertained and enlightened. And they should. Right now. Go read it. I’m serious.

Naomi Toseland is a young writer based at Cardiff Metropolitan University.