Book Summary

Holes by Louis Sachar

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This story speaks of family, friends, and heritage but is punctuated by personal adventure in the face of intractable challenges.  Stanley Yelnats is confined to an abysmal detention camp for young teens.  The name Camp Green Lake holds some attraction but really demands physical rehabilitation.  But his future is enlightened by the things he discovers about himself, peers, adults and his past. 


Fellow "inmates" dressed in orange camp garb , with names like Armpit, Barf Bag, Twitch, Caveman, and Zero stud the story with tension.  At first these "friends" seem as tough as the 5 x 5 holes (Zero knows how big that hole really is) everyone hates.  That is, except for the Warden, Mr. Sir, and Mr. Pendanski.  And these holes seem to hold a mystery that no one is talking about.  The "hole" mystery is complicated by the way the boys ended up in the camp.  Stanley and Zero seem to have paths that collide like multi-ball pinball.  Yet through the hot and dry parched days, Stanley teaches Zero how to read, and eventually carries him to the top of the mountain, breaking the family curse  and unleashing a cascade of blessings. 


Dark humor dourly underscores the adult/teen mix.  For example, when Stanley is wrongfully accused of stealing old running shoes from a star baseball player, the sad truth is that the money was meant to feed the homeless, or the attorney general who does not really know what is really going on at Camp Green Lake.  And the challenge to unassailable adult authority continues as Mr. Sir in perfunctory obeisance to the Warden is laced with snake poison coated finger nails when he fingers Stanley for stealing his sunflower seeds.  Mr. Pendanski (pedantic) with the moniker of "Mom", is one of the most liked among the least liked, but who, in an unflinching moment cannot decide between shooting the deadly lizards or Stanley and Zero.  


Stanley's intricate knowledge of his family reveals the source of water in "thumb of God" mountain.  His resignation to optimism champions a path of growth in the face of despair and this internal "thumbs up" stimulates a flow of love and affection that bonds the teens with their surroundings, distasteful as they both are; and then with their families, dysfunctional as they are (Stanley’s dad a scientist attempting to invent the secret to combat food odor).