Books that Built Us: ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar
As inconsistent as life is, one thing for me has remained the same: I love to read. You could document every phase of my childhood — from bowl cut to bangs to boyshorts to bikinis — through the pictures my mother has taken of me curled up with a book, be it on the beach or a park bench. Like most firsts that sprout from childhood, it is difficult to pinpoint the first time I ruffled the pages of a new book in my hands, one tiny finger dragging longingly over words I could not yet comprehend. But what I can tell you is the first time I ever fell in love with a book; the first time I was so enamored with the sentences painted in front of me that my outside surroundings became blurred and insignificant compared to the story raging in my hands.
“Holes” by Louis Sachar is an intricate and beautiful story framed in the perfect innocence of a young adult novel. It is a story of relationships, love that transcends time and how our past comes back to help build our futures. The main character is young Stanley Yelnats, the fourth in his family with that name because, as he notes, “Yelnats” is “Stanley” spelled backward, and his family thinks that’s pretty clever.
Stanley is convicted of theft, even though the only thing he’s guilty of is going to the wrong place at the wrong time. He is sentenced to Camp Green Lake, an all-boys juvenile detention camp that runs under the belief that if you take a bad boy and make him dig holes all day, it turns him into a good boy. Like most things in the novel, Camp Green Lake is not at all what it appears to be, and throughout every chapter, both the history of the site it stands on and the boys it houses is worked into a single, beautifully-woven web.
No matter how many times I reread “Holes” (and at this point in my life, I wouldn’t be able to count that number on two hands), I am still enchanted by every distinct story it tells, and how they all come to a single head. Every single little hole is filled. It’s almost magical the way one character’s actions affects the life of another, even if they don’t share the same century. In this novel, time is minimized, contained in small moments that define and build off of one another.
As a young girl reading it for the first time, the stories planted within me a sense of wonder with worlds that I myself could not create. I was infatuated with the way Sachar crafted pasts and futures alike, all while engaging the reader in the problems going on in the present. It made me want to keep reading, to keep searching for the next story.
Kids are always looking for magic, refusing to believe that it isn’t real. That awe, that curiosity, goes away eventually. The world doesn’t seem like a land of possibility anymore, but rather a threatening, uncertain future. I have long graduated from a life of seeking illusion and reading from the literary genre that “Holes” hails from. Still, each time I go back to Camp Green Lake, I am reminded of that first time. The moment that birthed in me a love for reading that has since shaped my life. Each time, I walk away with that same youthful awe and a revitalized certainty that the world is not yet completely void of magic.