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Have you thought that nothing could be worse than jail? Well you would be totally wrong because in the book Holes, the prison is about as bad as it can get -- so bad that in this prison, you spend hours digging holes in the ground to find treasure for the warden. This prison is called Camp Green Lake.

Stanley Yelnats is an ordinary kid going about his everyday normal life. Until one day, he is taken to court for stealing a pair of shoes (which he actually didn’t steal!). The court doesn’t believe him, and they take him to Camp Green Lake. In CGL (Camp Green Lake) Stanley meets a few friends named Zero, X-ray and more!

CGL was once a nice lake in Texas EVERYONE came to, and then one day, all the water dried up. Now CGL is a dry, hot desert prison. Stanley stays at CGL for eighteen months until he finally leaves. The thing that makes Holes so interesting is how the plot develops over the course of the book. There are many scenes that are intense, leaving you in suspense and making you scared so badly. Like for example, when Stanley survives a bunch of poisonous lizards after he accidentally falls into a hole. Or when Zero (one of Stanley’s friends) hits one of the assistants working for the Warden with a shovel and runs away to a mountain called The Big Thumb. The scenes in the story are pretty violent, but are okay for kids 10 years old and up. The thing that I don’t like about the story is how sad the ending is. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but even after Stanley returns to his home, his life (although better than it was at CGL) is still not at all great.

I empathized with Stanley because he was very brave and helpful to other prisoners in CGL despite it being a harsh place. I wish that when I sometimes face difficulties at school (like tough projects or homework), that I could stay more positive and not give up.

Holes was published in 1998 and won the 1999 Newberry Medal. At first the book was very popular and became a classic, but as other young adult books like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have gained appeal, less recognition has been given to Holes. Which I think is unfair.

I highly recommend Holes for kids in 5th grade and up; 3rd and 4th graders might find the scenes of violence, guns and explosions too scary. If you are able to be patient and get through the first 50 pages, the story picks up its pace tremendously, especially when Stanley develops closer relationships with his prison mates. I am disappointed about three aspects of this book that wish could have been changed. One, I wish the story had less of a scary beginning. Two, I wish the ending was changed to include more action and suspense as Stanley finds Zero hiding in the mountain and brings him back to CGL. Finally, the story has a few flashbacks like telling us about how life was before CGL became a prison. However these chapters are full of violent bloody scenes of destruction and death and reading them made me feel very sad.

Holes is a challenging and fun book to read. But once you complete it, you’ll be so happy and exhausted!!

Holes by Louis Sachar. Yearling, 2000. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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