Wednesday, 30 November 2011

review: Holes

by Louis Sachar
Scholastic, 1998
contemporary middle-grade

Stanley Yelnats didn't steal baseball star Clyde Livingston's shoes -- they fell out of the sky onto his head. Of course, that doesn't fly in court, and Stanley's given two options: jail, or Camp Green Lake. He chooses the latter, and off he goes to dig holes. The reason why the Warden there wants them digging in a dried-up lakebed lies in the twisted history of the ancestors of Stanley and Zero, the best hole-digger at the camp. Past injustices will tangle with present-day consequences until the truth forces its way out.
(Sorry about that awkward last logline; this book's too quirky, too original, too frakkin' fabulous to sum up in a less-than-cheesy way.)

The cover:

Considering this was published in the 90s, the abstract concept is achieved fairly well. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what that red thing plus the eye beneath was, but now I totally understand: it's an upside-down hat on a boy's head, drawn in a somewhat Picasso-style. Or maybe not. Yeah. I'll just be quiet now.

The book:

I finally went back and read this, and... stupendous. The fashion in which Louis Sachar unfolds his three stories -- four, if you count Zero's separately -- is pure wonder, 100% not from concentrate straight from the spring of genius. This is probably the only classic in elementary schools that I fully support. <3

While Stanley is the protagonist (and good thing too -- he's the one who the reader will feel closest, too), the novel really belongs to a cast of characters spanning countries and generations. Elya Yelnats is probably the least complicated of the whole cast, while Katherine (or Kissin' Kate) is all the empowered female we need in this male-dominated novel.

Where Holes shines is the tying together of the stories. Short snippets that, at the start, make no sense lend events later on gravity and impact and the "holy guacamole!" feeling, like the unveiling of Zero's real name (Madame Zeroni, anyone?), plus the Sploosh (Kate and her spiced peaches!), plus the yellow-spotted lizards and why they didn't kill Stanley and Zero. (You caught that flashback passage right afterward, right? Where Sam explains how they don't like onion blood? OMG. *__*)

Yeah. I don't think I can say anything coherent beyond the fact that Holes is now my top-rated book. It's miraculous.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5