“Holes is a book that will tug at your heartstrings, it’s no wonder that this has won awards.”
Review by Rayleigh Setser
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse.
A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
This is one of those books that has been on my TBR since I was a child and only recently came across it on the Libby app. It was a 4 hour listen so I checked it out and planned on binging it one day while I was at work. Turns out, it actually makes a good school companion and I listened to it on my breaks between study sessions yesterday (yes, I'm in college reading middle school books between study sessions, what of it?). Holes is a book that will tug at your heartstrings, it's no wonder that this has won awards. Stanley's story is a peek into America even years after the Civil War, and the racial discrimination that was passed down through generations. There is a parallel story told in this book alongside Stanley's story; one of his great-great-grandfather's and the forbidden love between whites and blacks during the time of Segregation. Stanley's story is exciting and heart-pumping! He's an unfortunate inmate at Camp Green Lake due to a misunderstanding and tries to put his best foot forward and make the most out of a really bad situation. I really liked Stanley's character. He's such a kind boy, focused on the betterment of those around him and always trying to be non-confrontational. Because of his naturally peaceful attitude, he gets taken advantage of but instead of that being a major weakness, he often has a calm demeanor and a clear head to get him out of those situations without fighting. He really is just a charming little boy. This book would be great assigned-reading for kids learning about post-Civil War America as it addresses many conversational topics on a middle-grade level. I would recommend the reading age to be at least 10 (depending on maturity levels), as there are some spooky scenes and the villain is a little messed up (spoilers for educators and parents will be included at the bottom of the review). Overall, I give it 5 stars!
Action & Gore:
2. Very mild action (mentions injuries like broken bones, without gruesome details).
Romance & Spice:
2. Mild content (holding hands and mild kissing)
Cursing & Vulgarity:
Other Trigger Warnings:
(SPOILERS INCLUDED FOR PARENTS/EDUATORS): No cursing, though there is some mild name-calling and nicknames are “earned” (i.e. Barf Bag, Zero, etc). There is bullying due to Stanley’s size, one boy who can’t read or write, and a friendship between Stanley and a black boy. The villain in Stanley’s story paints her nails with snake venom and scratches one of the henchmen, leaving a very deformed face, in front of Stanley as a warning to behave. The scene is longer than I would’ve expected in a middle-grade book and is definitely creepy. The parallel history story briefly recounts a romance (one kiss is mentioned) between a white teacher and a black man, of which ends with the public shaming of the white teacher and the death of the black man. The public shaming includes a mob burning down the school and the lawman demanding the teacher to kiss him “if the black man is to be viewed as an equal to him”.
Our Reviews of Other Books by this author:
Stanley likes to blame his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather when things he can’t control go wrong; what do you do when bad things happen?