I’m currently watching the movie version of Holes, so I figure now is as good a time as any to review the audiobook (written by Louis Sachar, narrated by Kerry Beyer).
Let me just start by saying the novel is flawless. I’ve read it before (and taught it once), and I am forever amazed at how well-crafted the narrative is. Everything comes together nicely, and the first time I read it (as an adult), days passed and I was still thinking about it. Sachar addresses race, class, retribution, reparations, grief, self-esteem, family, found family, corruption, and a bunch of other stuff, all in however many pages (four hours on CD).
I mean, I am still thinking about it again. Pendanski straight out says that Zero can’t learn and that learning makes him agitated/makes his blood boil. WHAT. And the Warden and her cronies need to keep Zero ignorant because that’s the only way they can get away with murder (literally). I mean, of course, people get agitated when they finally understand just how much they’ve been oppressed.
Not to mention that everybody loves Sam the Onion Man until he dares step out of line by kissing Katherine. Yup, up until then he was their favorite. But how dare he think himself a PERSON? And that the sheriff tries to force himself on Katherine because she kissed the onion picker so obviously that means she’ll do anything with anybody? Also, of course it’s not against the law for her to kiss Sam, just for Sam to kiss her. Middle grade, people. Don’t sleep on it.
The audiobook, on the other hand, is good but not great. The narrative has a lot of flashbacks, and I didn’t think enough was done to differentiate between the past and the present.
I was also not that big a fan of the voices Beyer uses. Zero sounds slow, and Armpit sounds like a doofus. His Warden was fantastic, though. She sounded calm and menacing all at the same time.
I chose to listen to the book because we drove to Texas and the story is set there. I mention that because my mom got all caught up in the story (“Is this the movie?” “No, Mom, it’s the BOOK that the movie is BASED ON.” Semantics are important.) and is going to make me re-listen to the end because she fell asleep. So the point is that the audio is good enough to get my mom engaged. Also, my daughter wouldn’t let me listen without her even though she’s read it before.
While I’m here, I should probably mention that no major changes were made between the movie and the book, probably because Sachar wrote the screenplay. The biggest change is that Stanley is fat in the book, but I think Shia LaBeouf is an excellent Stanley because he’s so awkward and lost looking. Also, [spoiler] Sam’s death is EVEN WORSE in the book[/spoiler], which is saying a lot because my daughter cried and cried at that part of the movie.
The casting for the movie is also flawless. Sigourney Weaver? YES. And Dulé Hill (before he was my TV boyfriend Burton Guster) as Sam is such a treat. Plus, Eartha Kitt looks exactly the way Sachar describes Madame Zeroni. I wonder if Sachar had her in mind when he created the character.
Also, I have taught the movie, and my students still take a while to make all the connections between the past and the present. So the story is still sophisticated in movie form.
So what I’m saying is you can’t go wrong with any version of the story you pick up.