Louis Sachar: Holes
Bloomsbury 2000 (1998)
This immensely readable YA novel is a delight: it presents like real-life contemporary fiction but is littered with almost impossible coincidences; it feels like a piece of fantasy at times but is unrelenting in its portrayal of societal realities; it’s peopled by individuals who one moment may be stereotypical and the next become complex and unpredictable.
Stanley Yelnats has been accused and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. His sentence is to go to Camp Green Lake, a correctional institute where boys are expected to dig regulation-sized holes to build good character.
And yet all is not as it seems: we are already alerted to the fact that Stanley didn’t commit a crime, that — suspiciously — his name is palindromic, that the institute is neither green nor by a lake, and that everyone there is a metaphorical square peg who will never fit the round hole they’re expected to dig.