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Teaching Young Adult Literature: A Review of Holes by Louis Sachar

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/14/2012

Great Book. Great Message. Great for Teaching Young Adult literature in middle school Not Great for High School.

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    Teaching Young Adult Literature: The Literary Merit of Holes by Louis Sachar

    A common mistake made by teachers is to assume young adult literature is sub-standard. Writing a book that appeals to young people is actually more difficult than writing a book that appeals to adults. The author who can write a book that appeals to both has talent. Holes addresses important issues, primarily directed toward young adults, but applicable to older adults as well:

    • The Importance of Self Esteem: Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake for a crime he did not commit. He discovers immediately that Camp Green Lake is no island paradise. What looks like bad luck turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Through his struggles at the camp, Stanley discovers his potential.
    • The Importance of Exercise: Part of Stanley's sentence is digging holes all day long. When Stanley enters the camp, he is obese. As he works hard, digging holes, he becomes physically fit. The more fit he becomes, the more confident he becomes.
    • The Importance of Friends: The key to survival in a camp for juvenile delinquents is forging friendships.
    • Untapped Potential: Sachar conveys the theme that all humans are worthwhile; all they need is encouragement.
    • The Role of Fate: Fate condemns Stanley and rescues him.
    • Doing What is Right: Despite his unfair imprisonment, Stanley does what is right and is rewarded for it.
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    Teaching Young Adult Literature: Holes Analysis

    Holes contains the following literary elements worthy of discussion:

    • Plot/Flashback: Narrated by the extensive use of flashback, Holes weaves various stories to create a young adult masterpiece.
    • Young Adult Genre: Holes represents a common young adult motif: coming of age.
    • Irony: The novel's clever irony stands at the center of its enjoyability.
    • Stereotypes: Other than Stanley and his best friend Zero (who ironically committed the crime for which Stanley was sent to camp), the novel's characters are stereotypes: there's the mean camp warden, the hardened juveniles, and the hillbilly guard. An explanation of the author's purpose in using stereotypes is in order.
    • Suspense: Sachar uses foreshadowing, pacing, and dangerous action to create suspense.
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    Why the Thumbs Down

    I speak glowingly of the novel, yet have given it a thumbs down. I believe high school students enjoy this novel. In fact, I've recommended it for students on summer vacation to read on their own. Classroom time, however, is precious. it should be used to teach those things students cannot learn on their own. Holes is a novel high school students can read on their own. The novel is more suited for a middle school classroom.

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