“The sun was up, and Stanley’s heart was still beating.”
Holes is a jigsaw puzzle of a story. If you know what you’re looking for, half the pieces are found on the first ten pages. I love when loose ends aren’t only tied up but tied together, so for me, then and now, this is the ideal story – every piece fits just right.
It begins with Camp Green Lake, the appeal of which falls far short of its name. It’s the new home of Stanley Yelnats, who is sent there as punishment for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, the fault lies with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather – a superstition worthy of week thirteen.
At Camp Green Lake, the boys dig holes. Five feet wide, five feet deep. Depending on who you ask, the first or second or third or 45th is the hardest. Stanley, who may be cursed but isn’t stupid, realizes pretty quickly this is more than just a punishment – they’re looking for something.
I find authors, especially in children’s books, often drop hints for the reader that the characters blatantly ignore, which irks me to no end. It’s unreasonable to assume that Stanley wouldn’t pick up on the same clues given to the reader – Stanley can connect the dots as well as any 12-year-old. And he does. That doesn’t mean he pieces together the whole story halfway through. It just means, for instance, when he finds the gold tube with the initials that match outlaw Kissin’ Kate, he like the reader has to wonder…could it be?
Holes won me over in a lot of ways. As mentioned, I like a book that wraps up well. And in this case there were a lot of stories to wrap up – about five for the price of one. I think though the real strength of the book is Stanley’s likeability. He’s an underdog so of course his tale tugs at the heartstrings. But it’s his resigned acceptance of his cursed fate without slipping wholly into self-pitying apathy that really made me fall for him. Zero, his campmate and fellow fugitive, is equally deserving of compassion, stoic in the face of “justice” that’s at best demeaning and at worst cruel.
The good guys are redeemed, after facing adversity with admirable character. The bad guys get their comeuppance, without going to extremes (excepting perhaps the Green Lake sheriff). Shia LaBeouf got a springboard to a movie career, for better or for worse. And I got a craving for peaches.