Holes has won numerous awards, most notably the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal for the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". It also won the William Allen White Children's Book Award in 2001. It continues to be well received by critics and was ranked number 6 among all-time children's novels by School Library Journal in 2012.
Betsy Hearne of the New York Times applauded the novel's integration of mystery and humor that manages to keep Holes light and fresh, and she characterizes it as a "family read-aloud." Roger Sutton of The Horn Book Magazine called Sachar's declarative style effective, and argues that it helped make the novel more poignant. Sutton appreciated the positive ending and the suspense that leads the reader to it.