Flashback Friday: “Holes”

Mallory Dobry ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Boy steals shoes. Boy goes to detention camp. Boy discovers buried treasure. Thus is the life of Stanley Yelnats, the protagonist of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes. Holes was published in 1997, and was given the 1999 Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The novel went on to receive a film adaptation released in 2003, starring Shia LeBeouf.

Holes follows the story of Stanley Yelnats, a teenager born into a poor family, cursed by Stanley’s “dirty, rotten, pig-stealing great-great grandfather.” When Stanley is arrested for stealing a baseball star’s sneakers from a homeless shelter, his options are attending Camp Green Lake or jail. Stanley chooses the juvenile detention camp where he is to dig holes every day in the middle of the Texas desert. During his time there, Stanley makes lifelong friends with the fellow boys at his camp, and discovers mysteries about his family’s past and the very camp itself.

"Holes" cover. Source: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
“Holes” cover. Source: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Sachar’s novel has been read in elementary and middle schools all around the country, and perhaps the globe, yet it is successful in far more ways than just its popularity. Holes weaves multiple stories into one: Stanley’s story, the story of his grandfather, and the story of notorious outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Sachar’s storytelling skills allow for plotlines to coexist, parallels to reveal themselves, and for a very intricately executed story to take place, without it being too confusing for a younger audience.

What Holes also offers, that many contemporary books still struggle with, is representation. The boys of Camp Green Lake come from varying, diverse backgrounds, and do not fall into stereotype molds. Sachar handles diversity and representation with ease, creating likable characters with sharp wits and smarts whose stories are more than their races or ethnicities.

Seventeen years after its publication, Holes remains a testament that novels for young readers can be enjoyed by those of all ages. Its ability to carry multiple stories and stitch them all together with realistic characters of color makes it ahead of its time, and a book that deserves to be taken off the shelf and enjoyed again and again.


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