Louis Sachar’s Holes is a classic young adult novel, published in 1998, that centers around Stanley Yelnats (whose last name is just Stanley backwards). Stanley is a boy who is wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes that belonged to a famous baseball player. He is sent to Camp Green Lake as a result, and forced to dig holes with other juvenile delinquents, under the watch of a harsh Warden. Stanley has to adjust to this new way of life, and over time befriends one of the boys, who the others call Zero. Their relationship strengthens when Zero runs away from camp, and Stanley goes on a dangerous journey to look for him.
While the days seem long, mundane, and repetitive at first, we learn that this hole-digging is not actually for building discipline in the boys and instead intended on helping the Warden find buried treasure from over 100 years ago. This plot point enables Sachar to tie in multiple stories that are all connected to each other.
When Stanley’s great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, was young, a woman named Madame Zeroni gave him a pig, on the condition that he would later carry her up a mountain and sing her a song. However, Elya later forgets about this and moves to America, never fulfilling the promise. Because of this, he feels that Zeroni has placed a curse on him as his luck worsens.
Meanwhile in America, a teacher named Katherine Green falls in love with a man named Sam, who sells onions. However, due to de jure racist policies in the nation at the time, Katherine, who is white, is not allowed to be in a relationship with Sam, who is black. The townspeople of Green Lake are furious at their relationship, and Sam ends up being murdered. Katherine is distraught and loses her sanity after this incident, turning to a life of crime and robbing people across the American West. One of these people is Stanley Yelnats (Stanley’s great-grandfather), whose suitcase full of money ends up getting buried near the present day Camp Green Lake.
Eventually, in the present day, Stanley and Zero find this suitcase belonging to Stanley, which is full of valuable treasures. Stanley’s luck turns around when he is found to be not guilty and he and Zero (whose real identity is Hector Zeroni, a descendant of Madame Zeroni) can leave the camp.
Overall, I’d say the ending of the book is quite satisfying. I was left feeling frustrated after Stanley was falsely accused and mistreated, so it was good to see that he gets the justice he deserves and is able to put an end to his family’s curse. There are no loose ends left and Sachar nicely ties together the ending of the story for each of his characters, showing how Hector is reunited with his mother and how Stanley’s father finally has a successful invention. The language used in the book is not too complex either, so I’d recommend this novel to readers across a wide variety of grade levels and ages.