At 83 on The List Holes is one of the few children’s/YA books I haven’t read. It was published in 1998 when I was 10 and I spent much of the next year looking at a poster of the cover that was on the wall in my school library both intrigued and slightly terrified by the giant lizard on the front. In 1999 I went to high school so didn’t see that particular poster again but I can’t tell you how pleased I was that when I finally got a copy of the book it had that cover, reading a different version just wouldn’t have felt right.
I knew I wanted to read Holes, I didn’t really know what it was about but that poster had stuck in my mind so vividly that I knew I had to read it. I’ve passed up countless opportunities to read it in the past, I feel a bit like the book is Ross and I’m Rachel from Friends, we know we’re going to end up together but it’s a long time coming. Alright, weird analogy but you get the picture.
Anyway, last Sunday I was lying in bed, not quite ready to get up yet so I thought I’d read a few lines and see how it went. Two and a half hours later I turned the last page and thought to myself, ‘Why on earth did I wait SIXTEEN years to read this book?!’ Safe to say I enjoyed it.
To give you a brief summary, Holes tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, sentenced to 18 months digging holes at Green Lake juvenile correction facility for a crime he didn’t commit. Green Lake is a harsh place, in the middle of the desert where water is tightly rationed and there are any number of things hiding in those holes waiting for their next meal to come along. Not only that but being overweight and cursed with the bad luck of his ‘no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-great-grandfather’, Stanley is used to being at the bottom of the pecking order and now has to find a way to live with a group of hardened teenage criminals.
Can Stanley find a way to survive his sentence? Why exactly are they digging holes in the middle of the desert? And will anyone ever believe in Stanley’s innocence?
It seems like a pretty grim situation but Holes is a story of friendship, loyalty and repairing past mistakes told with an innocence and a dark humour which makes it impossible to put down.
Interwoven with the main story are subplots which tell the story of how Stanley’s great-great-great-grandfather managed to get his whole family cursed and the tale of how Green Lake lost its lake both of which add depth to and support the book’s overall theme of destiny.
There’s no doubt about it, Holes was definitely worth the wait! And if you can read the final showdown without squirming, you’re a braver soul than I am.