I’m very rarely capable of choosing favourites. I can’t tell you what my favourite film is, just a handful of ones I really like. I can’t tell you my favourite food, my favourite TV show or my favourite band. I very much sit on the fence as much as is humanly possible, not really able to make a firm choice on anything.
However, when it comes to books, this has never been a hang up for me, as I know what my favourite book is. In fact, I’ve known for a very long time what my favourite book is, its never chopped or changed with the wind. I’ve never gotten tired of it, even though I must have read it a million times by now.
My favourite book… is Holes.
Yes, Holes by Louis Sachar is my favourite book. Of course, it’s a pretty well known book. I can’t claim to have “discovered” it as a heck of a lot of people have read it. But from the reactions of the people I’ve told, it’s apparently an odd choice to pick as your favourite. Most people read it at school, or have never read it at all, or maybe saw the film (which is amazing by the way and I will talk about later). Though I first learned of Holes at school, I didn’t read it as part of the curriculum. I distinctly remember being in a year 7 English class towards the start of the school year and one of the boys in my class had finished his work, so my English teacher gave him a book to read. That book was of course, Holes. I remember seeing the pile of them on the teacher’s desk, obviously there for another class to read together, and I thought it looked pretty cool. So, when Christmas came around I put it on my list and my parents got it for me.
I remember all of this in extreme detail for a) something that happened 10 years ago and b) something that’s a bit insignificant. It’s a very nothing memory, but its one I remember nonetheless. I don’t remember reading Holes for the first time, but I remember becoming completely enamoured with it. The story and characters have stuck with me for such a long time and it just makes me happy. Whenever I’m feeling down I know I can pick that up and start reading and I’ll cheer up. I don’t even have to get through the whole thing; I’ve read it enough by now I can pretty much recite it backwards. Its short enough that I can read the whole thing in one sitting, and even though it’s quite short there’s so much going on and the pacing is well done so it doesn’t feel like its over in a flash.
The premise is pretty simple. Stanley Yelnats III (So named as his no-good-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather has a son, and thought it was pretty cool how his last name was Stanley backwards and so it became a family tradition) is falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes owned by a famous basketball player that were to be auctioned for charity. As penance, he gets sent to Camp Green Lake, which is neither Green or near a Lake, anymore, where their only task is to dig holes all day every day. But the real mystery is; what they are digging for?
Not only does Holes tell you about Stanley’s time at Camp Green Lake, but as it slowly uncovers the mystery of the camp it tells you two different, but crucially related narratives as well. Seamlessly woven into the main plot are tales of Elya Yelnats and how he got his whole family cursed, and why the town of Green Lake dried up all those years ago. It also tells maybe the most beautiful, and tragic, love story in the whole damn world; that of Kate and Sam the Onion man. I particularly love their story and their role in the big picture. I don’t reveal too much because I’m hoping those who haven’t read it will be inspired by my ramblings, but my god its really just wonderful. Any explanation I try to give will never in a million years do the book any sort of justice. Its just so cleverly written. Sachar is a genius frankly. Everything ties together brilliantly, tiny details that are brought up at the beginning come into play later in the book and serve as explanations for why things happen. And the resolution is beautiful, particularly the way that the Yelnats curse is lifted. To try and make some sort of sense, its just a wonderfully written story, that has about 4 other stories weaved in that all play out in the incredible climax. It’s just good ‘kay?!
The characters are of course incredibly well developed. Stanley is lovely. He’s just a young boy that, while he has loving parents, never really had a lot and just wants to make them proud. He always tells the truth and always does what he thinks is right, leading to his friendship with Zero and their exploits. Zero is also a lovely character. Another inmate at Camp Green Lake, Zero can neither read or write, and doesn’t really talk all that much. But Stanley eventually takes him under his wing and starts teaching him, making Zero the first, and best, friend Stanley ever had. I’ve already said how much I adore Kate and Sam, Sam being one of the nicest guys in the town, but since he’s black and they live in the year 1888, things don’t go well for him. Lastly, I must talk about the Warden. She has to be one of the most terrifying villains I’ve ever read in a book. She was so intimidating even in book form, so god knows what she would have been like in real life. The reason that she was so scary was purely because she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. She was obsessive and slightly crazy and was prepared to do some terrible things just so she could have her way. She was so well written, especially considering she doesn’t appear in the book all that much, just at key points for her character. But even in the way she was talked about by the other characters really just added to the air of unease I had when she was around.
Some people may be slightly more familiar with the film made by Disney in 2003. It stars Shia LaBeouf as Stanley and is probably one of the best book to film adaptations in history. The screenplay was actually written by Louis Sachar, which goes a long way into why it was so true to the book, and probably the only big divergence from the source material is Stanley being a skinny rather than the tall, pudgy boy described in the book. However, I’m okay with this as the film genuinely follows the book down to the damn word. It’s a good watch too, Sigourney Weaver being the perfect casting choice as the previously mentioned Warden. In fact, all of the casting was spot on, with every character looking almost exactly as I had imagined them.
In all, Holes is a freaking amazing book. I will never get over how great a read it is and how much I love it. I realise that most of my posts lately have just been me very inarticulately rambling about how much I love things, but guys… I really really love it. I’m borderline obsessive really, and probably unhealthy, but its just so damn good. Louis Sachar is an incredible author and I will thank him over and over again for the hours of joy I’ve had from reading his book. It will never cease to make me smile and I will always love reading it. In fact, I think I may read it again after writing this blog…