Thursday, January 31, 2008

Holes, by Louis Sachar

This was another book that I started out not liking and ended up really enjoying. So far I'm impressed with the selections for this year's reading. I'm even more encouraged about what's to come at this rate!

This is the story of Stanley Yelnats, a falsely accused teen who is sentenced to Camp Green Lake to "serve time" for the offense of stealing a pair of tennis shoes. In this camp, the going philosophy is that digging holes will build up a man's character in a boy and so each boy is required to dig one hole a day. The conditions are harsh and the authority figures harsher. None of the boys seems particularly enviable.

I think part of the motivation behind this book was to draw attention to boy's "prison camps." Certainly by presenting a likable character, the author does a good job at pulling your heart strings and making you think ill of the Texas department of juvenile corrections. The camp "Warden" is particularly loathsome and spiteful as you could predict her to be right from the get-go. Everything about the court system seems to be a joke and intends to motivate the reader to want a complete overhaul. While I do recognize the fact that prison camps are not all that they are cracked up to be, and, in fact, abuses does happen - I still think that there is a place for them. Anyone who holds a position of power has the means of abusing their position at any place and at any time. There are no exceptions. Just because we've had some examples of abuse in prison camps like the one described in Holes, we should not be driven to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." I may not personally be settled on "the ultimate solution" but right now we must use the options available to us . . . one of them being prison camps.

Aside from that emotional focus, the book also weaves a good western mystery into the plot involving ancient curses and a really fun mysterious outlaw. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book a great deal. I thought the author did a fabulous job weaving together two separate stories into something relevant to our main character. Very well done!

I would encourage anyone to read this book. I'm curious to know if anyone has seen the movie version that came out recently? If so, please do share your thoughts on it. I can't imagine that I would enjoy it as a political statement, but I would enjoy the western outlaw bit.

I thought this book was imaginative and creative and despite it's somewhat depressing scenery, really had a lot of heart and enthusiasm. It's not one I think I'd want to own but it is worth a read.


At 5:36 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

The movie was great--screenplay written by the author, which is always a good sign. We really enjoyed it.

I never got the feeling the book was particularly meant to be an indictment of the juvenile justice system, just because things are SO over the top. It more seemed like an exotic setting and the coup de grace of the family bad luck.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Wow, Carrie, you really got depths out of it that I never plumbed! I was just along for the ride! =)

I was very struck by the layers and loose ends that tied up perfectly. Everything fitted just right, although it kept me guessing right up until the end. Don't want to say too much more lest I spoil it for those who haven't finished it yet, but there was such a grand dose of poetic justice, irony, and coincidence sprinkled throughout. Very satisfying.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Sandy D. said...

The movie was a better fit to the story than for most books. Sigourney Weaver was particularly good as the evil Warden. :-)

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Alaina said...

I had fun with this story, too! I enjoyed seeing how the people and circumstances of the past met up with and influenced the characters of the present. Some of the elements of the mystery I guessed right away, like the Warden's ulterior motive for the digging, but others surprised me at the end. It was a fun story with elements of legend and folktale and the idea of fate, and an all-around entertaining adventure.

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Mirlandra said...

I grabbed this book about an hour after finishing Peace Like A River, after being in the bus all day, sort of getting ready to slog through hit. After reading PLAR, it seemed nothing else was going to measure up right away . . .

The first cheaper or two, I wasn't that excited about it, to much injustice, but then it just got better and better and I read it almost straight through!

Rose, I also loved how it all tied together. Stories within stories that all relate just get me every time. I suppose that's one of my favorite book things. And, how can you not love a book that has a pig song and sweet onions and a kissing outlaw in it?

Carrie, I think it's possible that she was highlighting the juvenile justice system. I actually think that well run work camps where power is not abused, and the focus is training people in the value of hard work and self respect, can serve a great purpose. Obvious ally, this book portrays what goes wrong when the entire system is abused!

This book goes best with Merlin's Dr. Pepper, and snow.

Bottom Line: 10 out of 10, and it stays on my shelf to be recommended and loaned out again and again! Just a great read! Guess I will give the movie a try too!

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Sky said...

I have been afraid to read the book because I so thoroughly enjoyed the movie! The movie does a great job of mixing the past and present together, because of the cinematography and editing you never get lost. The outlaw is a woman in the movie, I haven't read the book so I don't know how it coincides or not but I have recommended the movie to very choosy people and all have enjoyed it immensely.
Shia Lebouf and Dule Hill are two of my favorite actors by the way.

I will have to read the book now!

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

My mom read the book and watched the movie and said she enjoyed both. She also told me to watch the movie which I haven't done yet. . . but want to!

Read the book, Sky! You'll love it.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

My mom read the book and watched the movie and said she enjoyed both. She also told me to watch the movie which I haven't done yet. . . but want to!

Read the book, Sky! You'll love it.


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