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5 Books like Holes: the Struggle to Survive

Helen Maloney itcherBy now everyone has probably heard of Stanley and the lake of holes. It is a unique take on a crime, punishment and redemption story, in which each day is a struggle to survive. I have 5 other such books for you, including the often humorous ‘The Bad Beginning’ and the daring escapades of ‘The Contest’. ~ Helen Maloney

Do You Have What it Takes?

Stanley and the other boys at Camp Green Lake spend their days digging holes five feet deep and five feet wide. This is not your typical detention centre for boys, and Stanley soon realises it’s a race against time to figure out what’s going on while battling to stay alive.

In these 3 books like ‘Holes’, we see children and teenagers struggling through a range of dangerous or unfortunate situations. Many of them learn various lessons along the way but will they make it to the other side intact or will their lives be changes forever?


Books Similar to ‘Holes’…

‘The Contest’ (Gordon Korman, 2000)

Image Source: Amazon

Dominic is a 13-year-old boy determined to enter the Everest contest alongside his older brother. Only by sheer luck does he secure a place at the training camp, though not only is he the youngest there but he is also the smallest.  He seems to stand no chance at securing a place on the expedition, but he refuses to give up.

The contestants must make their way through weeks of intense and gruelling activity – in the gym, climbing, hiking and bouldering – in order to show they’ve got what it takes to survive the greatest challenge of them all: reaching Everest’s summit.

This book was a serious page turner for me. I HAD to know if Dominic was going to be alright.

Similarity Match: 85%
Like ‘Holes’, things aren’t always what they seem but the competition among the boys is more serious and plays a larger part in the events of ‘The Contest’.

‘The Bad Beginning’ (Lemony Snicket, 1999)

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When their parents die in a tragic fire, their lives are literally changed for ever. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to Count Olaf, who only wants the fortune they will inherit and so is perfectly happy making their lives as miserable as possible.

The big draw for this series, and possibly why so many children and adults love it so, is the writing style. Snicket has a very Dahl-like sense of humour and you find yourself laughing while reading all about the terrible things the orphans go through.

Similarity Match: 80%
The same dark humour is used in ‘The Bad Beginning’ but the longer length of the series means the children suffer far more than Stanley.

‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ (Ann Brashares, 2001)

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Finding a pair of jeans in a thrift store which somehow fits all four friends perfectly, as if by magic. This seems like a sign to the four girls who are about to depart on their first summer apart. It becomes the symbol of their friendship and a way to send each other hope, support and encouragement throughout the holidays. Lena is off to spend time with her Greek grandparents, Carmen is visiting her divorced dad who has a surprise to tell her, Bridget is off to a football/soccer summer camp and poor rebellious Tibby is stuck at home.

The reason to read their story? Each girl faces completely different situations and yet each of them is believable. Although the stories themselves involve many misfortunes, there are also positive aspects and lessons learnt.

Similarity Match: 70%
Unlike ‘Holes’, the girls are already close friends and although the majority of situations aren’t life-threatening, they are as life-changing.


If You Like ‘Holes’, You Will Like…

The next two books are still full of children or adolescents who suffer misfortunes and find a way to overcome them, but they are of a very different nature to those in ‘Holes’ and the other books like ‘Holes’.

‘Bridge to Terabithia’ (Katherine Paterson, 1977)

Image Source: Tower

Jess is a very lonely, isolated boy. He is often ignored or taken for granted by his family and seems to have few friends. That is, until Leslie moves in next door. Soon he is caught up in the magical way she sees the world and together they build the imaginary world of Terabithia, where they are king and queen.

Paterson has written an incredibly moving and heart-wrenching tale of a boy’s experience of seeing the world through another’s eyes, and the profound effect it had on him, his life and his outlook.

While Jess is not digging a giant hole every day or in fear of his life, his world is forever changed by his experience.

‘Brother in the Land’ (Robert Swindells, 1984)

Image Source: Wikimedia

Before I start describing the book, I should tell you that out of all these books, this is the book like ‘Holes’ that you MUST read. I can’t even begin to explain the effect this book has had on me. Even years later I still struggle to put it into words.

The world has suffered a nuclear strike and both East and West have launched their warheads. The (un)lucky people who survive the strike must make sense of this new ravaged wasteland where food is scarce and everyone is out for themselves. We follow the journey of one family and their struggle is horrifying and yet so believable. The stuff of nightmares.

This is the emotionally draining tale of a brother doing everything he can to help his younger brother survive all the tragic events that follow the strike.


Misfortune Awaits

I hope you found these books a thrilling and exciting read of misadventure, misfortune and disaster, as well as enjoying the humorous or emotionally-charged moments.

I would love to hear what you thought of these books and whether you have any more books like ‘Holes’ to recommend.

Hi, I′m Helen, I teach English in the UK and am a book addict (I′m serious - if I go too long without reading I get withdrawal symptoms!). I also love music, films, crafting, corresponding and video games. It is impossible for me to sit still unless I′m eating, holding a book or making something.
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