It’s not a surprise that this is the first book to win both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (1998). This is an incredible story– impeccable storytelling happens in these 233 pages. An effortless weaving of the past, present, ancient history of these characters, Sachar examines the nature of human hope and compassion while still maintaining a light, humorous quality. As I said, impeccable.
Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats and Zero. But it’s also the story of Katherine Barlow and Sam the Onion Man. And the story of Madame Zeroni and Elya Yelnats. Three seemingly innocent, slightly related stories which culminate in a fantastic collection of fate or destiny or coincidence… or whatever you want to call it. This is not a book that promises success and rewards for doing the right thing and choosing all the right answers. No, the characters of this book learn how to cope with real adversity. They prove you can, and should, make the right choices just because it’s right. This is about choosing kindness and compassion when everything around you is hard and unfair. Holes is about taking the hard road because it’s the right thing to do. And I love it.
Holes also explores many deep themes. Sachar explores the life of troubled kids and their relationships with disciplinarians, friends, peers, and their own family. Heck, even with themselves. These kids are coming into their identities in these new roles they have been thrust into, and it isn’t easy. Sachar explores the social politics of prison life, even if it is just a kid’s prison. We explore racism. We learn what it means to break promises, to keep them, and to push through barriers– both the ones you know and the one’s you didn’t see coming. Holes shows the reader that you are always capable of redemption and you can be a better person, even if you don’t believe in yourself right now. You can.
In October 2014, I read this book for the first time. As an adult. I was already fairly well past Sachar books by the time this one came out, and I never had ever heard of it until recently. I knew very little about the book. Only that it had won both the Newbery and NBA for Young People’s Literature. I knew Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School fairly well. Honestly, I did not have high hopes for this book. I was pleasantly mistaken. I was so impressed, I purchased a copy immediately. This is one of those books you should own.
In October 2015, I read this book again. Even though I knew what was happening and why it was happening– I was still blown away. The story is just so well told. That said, this is a series of beautiful coincidences. Don’t bring your microscope to this reading party, just accept it. This book just applies Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion (For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) to storytelling.
One of the most fascinating things about this novel has to do with its creation. This is a novel that Sachar kept secret from his friends, editor, publisher– even his wife. It took a year and half. And yet, this book was not a pet project, but it was a constant struggle. Sachar knew this story was hiding inside him, but for some reason, he never could seem to finish it. The part which I find most inspiring are all the quirks about his writing of this book.
And yes, Disney made a movie. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told… don’t. Has anyone seen it? Any thoughts as to whether this holds up?
I recommend this to anyone and everyone who reads. It’s an enjoyable story that will make you giggle and give you feels. Many many feels. Read it.