Holes by Louis Sachar

“Here’s a good rule to remember about rattlesnakes and scorpions: If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. Usually. Being bitten by a scorpion or even a rattlesnake is not the worst thing that can happen to you. You won’t die. Usually. […] But you don’t want to be bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you. You will die a slow and painful death. Always.”

Background

Stanley Yelnats is cursed – a curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pif-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has followed the Yelnat family for generations. When Stanley is accused of stealing a pair of shoes belonging to basketball great Clyde “Sweetfeet” Livingston, he is sent to live at Boys’ Detention Center Camp Green Lake (ironically named, as there IS no lake) where the boys spend days building characters by digging holes exactly 5 foot wide and five foot deep.

My Thoughts

Completely unfairly, I was expecting Holes to be your typical YA text where the protagonist is a degenerate who learns some kind of lesson in a way akin to Aesop’s Fables – yeah, you learn a totally a valid lesson from reading it and all, but any kid worth their street-cred will roll ear eyes and run a mile before picking it up.How bloody wrong I was. And it annoys me how close I got to not reading Holes because of my stupid assumptions, so I implore you to not make the same mistake that I almost did.

Image from the film adaptation of Holes

This is a supreme novel for a number of reasons. Stanley Yelnats is not your archetypal bad kid who turns good – he’s actually a good kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time (a fate that he attributes to the curse he has inherited from his no-good-dirty-rotten-pif-stealing-great-great-grandfather), and while you might expect a sullen, sulky protagonist, the monologue we are presented with is just so refreshing. Stanley is the kind of kid who just gets on with it, no matter what cards he is dealt. And I think that is why Holes is an enjoyable novel from my perspective. It doesn’t shove the message and moral down its readers throats; it subtly makes you consider how your own mindset and attitude and compels you to also look on the bright side – even if you are cursed.

 

Aside from this, Holes offers a great mystery story that draws its audience in. The story of Stanley’s ancestry is weaved throughout the narrative, making the audience consider and wonder about if and how this relates to Stanley’s narrative. The mystery teases the reader skilfully, offering some information and then quickly jumping away, leaving you wanting more. This is definitely a ‘Even-though-I-said-I-would-stop-reading-I-have-to-read-the-next-chapter’ book.I already knew that Holes has been adapted into a film, but today while checking Goodreads, I was so very excited to see that there is a sequel to (called Small Steps) and I seriously cannot wait to read it. If it is half as good, I will be pleased.

Holes– Louis Sachar

My Rating: Must Read! Get It Now

Suggested Audience: Tweens to Young Adults

Page Count: 233

Publication: 2000

Where Can I Get It?

To buy Holes for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository. At the time of posting, the Book Depository is selling Holes for only $6.24; what a serious bargain!

 

 

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My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson

My Sister Jodie – Jacqueline Wilson ( web ) Publication: 2008 Page Count: 244 My Rating: A Rainy Day Read Suggested Audience: Girls Background When Pearl’s parents get jobs working at prestigious Melchester College, it spells a move to the country … Continue reading

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Picture Me Gone – Meg Rosoff (web | twitter | facebook)
Publication: 2013 (received through NetGalley, thanks!)
Page Count: 200
My Rating: A Rainy Day Read
Suggested Audience: Young Teenager


Background
Just days before scheduled to travel with her father to America to visit his old friend Matthew, 12 year old Mila and her father receive the news that Matthew has suddenly disappeared without any warning or trace. Mila and her father take off on a roadtrip across the USA to look for Matthew, unravelling a mystery and learning truths about growing up.

My Thoughts
I found this to be a hard book to get into, but as the narrative progressed I became more and more interested in how the journey would end. Meg Rosoff has an uncanny skill in luring the reader in and then suddenly changing the subject, compelling the reader to keep on turning that page.

As I read, I considered what age-group I would personally recommend this novel for, and if I’m honest, I’m still not sure of my answer! Written with heavy use of descriptive language, this book might not appeal to readers who are in the same age group as the protagonist. But at the same time, Mila’s inner thoughts are written in a way so that a younger audience may relate.

“At Suzanne’s, I Googled cases of people who suddenly walk away from their homes or families. Some of the reasons are: madness, amnesia, money problems, marital woes, secret second family, depression, fired from job but hasn’t told wife, crisis of religious faith or near death experience, terrible secret, kidnapping, mental illness, doesn’t know why…

Many of these reasons are confusing. Why wouldn’t you tell your wife if you’d lost your job? What’s so bad about a crisis of faith? What sort of secret? Someday I’ll understand more of these thing…”

Although listed as “children’s fiction” and YA (young adult), in many ways this novel did not read as “children’s fiction”, and I think would be better suited to an older audience (say 15+). However, what with typical teenage ego, I wouldn’t be certain if an older audience would read a novel with a younger protagonist! I think that rather than depending on the readers age, the suitability of this novel should be decided based on the readers maturity.

The one element I personally found completely unnecessary is that Mila refers to her parents by their first names. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a cultural thing, it if this book was possibly set in the future, or if it was simply a nod to the “coming of age” narrative. It is my opinion that the majority of readers who Meg is aiming to appeal to will find Mila’s reference to her parents by their first names to be awkward. Irrespective of her reasoning, I thought it an entirely unnecessary choice and it annoyed me throughout my reading of Picture Me Gone.

But before potential audiences are frightened off, let me say that this is an interesting read, and that Picture Me Gone focuses on themes that aren’t frequently considered in this genre of literature. Alcoholism, depression and death are all meshed into this story, making it a very thoughtful read. Again, while I would question the suitability of this novel for “children’s fiction”, Meg Rosoff considers themes thoughtfully and is subtle in their conclusion, making it a very gentle introduction for young teenagers to the “adult world”.

Where Can You Get It?
To buy Picture Me Gone for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository