Customer Reviews: Guantanamo Boy
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on December 31, 2011
After reading its starred review in SLJ and hearing an interview with author Anna Perera on NPR, I was excited about reading this book. I'm a school librarian, and the book circulated a few times before I could get my hands on it, but finally I took it home for the holiday break, brewed a pot of coffee, and curled up to start reading.

I only made it about 30 pages in before I had to start skimming, and then I couldn't even do that. While the story itself was compelling--a 15-year old British citizen finds himself in a secret prison, interrogated, tortured, and even waterboarded--the writing was awful. The present-tense point of view is jarring, and the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Too much exposition is revealed through dialog, and it comes off sounding awkward.

I am truly disappointed that such a powerful and potentially life-impacting subject received such mediocre treatment, and that the book's editors did not insist on multiple rewrites before it went to press. I hate to think that what this book teaches--primarily that the systematic detainment and torture of people without cause is wrong and inhumane--will be lost in the delivery.
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VINE VOICEon June 30, 2010
Khalid Ahmad is a 15 year old English boy. He watches and plays futbal, works hard at school, has strong family values and an affinity for computer games. He takes a trip to Pakistan with his family, as his father must clean up loose ends after his grandmother dies. Of course, Khalid is in Pakistan in the wake of 9/11 and is picked up for being a terrorist. He is then thrown in jail without a trail, his habeous corpus suspended -- however I don't know if England has habeous corpus. Right-o. Of course, Khalid winds up in Guantanamo, which breaks several geneval laws.

What I notice about Guantanamo Boy is the underlying political statements. It is very critical of the war on terror. It is very critical of Guantanamo Bay. For the most part, I understand that criticism. However, I felt it was just a little too blatant for me. I'm not very comfortable when someone forces their political opinion on me. Yet, I do think what Perera has done in raising awareness about the unfair practices of Guantanamo Bay is fabulous.

One thing which bothered me, it may not bother you, was the graphic descriptions of the torture Khalid underwent. I'm conflicted as I write this because I especially found it disturbing. However, I suppose being edgy is necessary to get the point across about just how bad torture is, and how confessions extracted under duress aren't quite real confessions at all.

Guantanmo Boy was a compelling read, but THE MESSAGE was a little too loud, clear, and blatant for me. I thought this was an average message read.
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on October 26, 2012
Despite really wanting to love this novel (I have a soft spot for unique stories), I found myself struggling to finish it. I have no problem with the story itself (it is certainly one that needs to be told) but did struggle with the fact that the writing lacks polish. I really believe that, with a bit of revision, this could be a truly amazing novel.
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on August 1, 2013
I bought this book because my son was with medical services in the Bagram prison. He also inspected Kandahar prison. The incidents in this book are drawn from the German/Jew prisons. Heads were never shaved at Bagram or Kandahar, detainees were deloused. This book implies that Americans are the terrorists. The real detainees throw feces, urine & semen on the male AND female guards. The guards are not even allowed to raise their voices to retaliate. That would violate the detainees civil rights. My son worked with Red Cross & other non-governmental organizations. They investigated ALL claims & allegations against the guards but not a single claim made by the guards. Minors were NOT treated as told here. Minors were NEVER water boarded. You are selling books by spreading lies and half-truths and slandering a Hell of a lot of good American troops. I might add that our soldiers are having many problems adjusting to life at home.
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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2011
Although I read a lot of contemporary YA, I haven't seen much dealing with one of the most pivotal events of my generation. Now I'm older, I've spent nearly half my life with my country waging the War on Terror, and though I'm interested, I've still seen very few books touching on it. I was doubly intrigued when I realized that Perera was British, lending a different perspective to her story.

This book is set about 6 months after 9/11 in England following 15 year old Khalid, an Englishman of Pakistani descent living an ordinary life in a small British town. He goes to school, has a crush on a girl, and lives for soccer. For the Easter holiday, his family travels to Pakistan to help his family. Although he was been warned about the increasing risks of looking Muslim, he has no fear being confident in his British citizenship. Yet soon into his visit, he is kidnapped, held without benefit of trial, and eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay. All told, he is held captive for over two years while his family frantically searches for him and many abuses against human rights are perpetrated against him and the other prisoners.

This is a hard book to rate because while I think it is important and well written, it's not the kind of book I can love. A book I love leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy, has generally made me laugh, and frequently has some swoony romantic scenes. This book is basically the opposite of that but still recommended to all of you out there with the caveat about some intense scenes with violence.
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on July 22, 2010
I decided to read this book on a friend's recommendation, since there weren't many Amazon reviews to read. As the title of this review says, I found "Guantanamo Boy" to be mediocre at best. The political message was a little too blatant for my taste. Any halfway intelligent person could have implied the message from the general context of the book but the author seemed to find it necessary to make some pointed, personal jabs, which I found to be unnecessary. I agree with the author's message and was still annoyed by it so I can only imagine how hard this book would be for someone to read that disagrees with the author.

This wasn't the worst book I've ever read but it certainly wasn't the best either. The story was interesting enough but I found the author's writing style to be very lazy. This book was apparently aimed at teenage readers, so I can understand why more simplistic language was used but there's no excuse for the amount of sentence fragments in this publication. That's just laziness. Her place descriptions are weak, making different locations seem to blur into one instead of remaining distinct in the reader's mind. Not the most effective writing style when trying to make such a big impression.

I've recently read many favorable reviews of this book so maybe I'm missing something. I just thought this book could have been so much better than it actually was.
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on July 16, 2011
This is a powerful story. The author has taken the events of 9/11 and shown us how the events thereafter were just a horrific. Khalid is a fifteen-year-old boy in England. He and his family go to Pakistan to help his aunts find a place to move. His father ventures off to look at a rental and doesn't return. His mother sends Khalid to the same address to look for his father. He doesn't find him. On his way back to his aunt's house he is caught up physically in a demonstration. He manages to make his way back to his aunt's home. Later that evening men in black break into the house and kidnap him. He is accused of being a terrorist and eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay. His family has no idea at first what has happened to him. The book details his abuse and torture while imprisoned. It seems obvious the author of the book did not like the Bush administration. I can overlook that in this book. What I could not overlook was the fact that although this book is fiction, we know that young innocent children and teens were abducted and accused of being terrorists and sent to Guantanamo. We also have knowledge of the humiliation, abuse and torture that took place. The author was not afraid to speak out about these atrocities. If we hide things like these from our children then they will repeat our mistakes. This is a bitter pill to swallow. However, I remember my parents telling me about the Japanese-Americans being sent to interment camps here in the United States. We learned nothing. After 9/11 we looked at people of a different nationality and different religion and decided, or judged them based on those two factors. Although I would not recommend this to my sixth graders because of the graphic nature of it, I would recommend it to seventh grade and up. The book has a timeline of events in the back, several sources to check the information and the most wonderful questions. To me the questions were so thought provoking that they could be used not just for this book but for the topic of terrorism and family and many other things. This has been one of the better books I have read this summer. It is not a light read. It stands at over 300 pages and reads quickly, but the topic itself is heavy. I found myself crying often at the injustice. The author definitely has a way with words to say the least.
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on September 16, 2011
A harrowing account of how a fifteen year old boy gets caught up in George Bush's ill conceived "war on terror". Accused of planning to bomb London after he and some friends collaborated on the creation of a computer game, British school child, Khalid is abducted from Karachi in Pakistan, where he was visiting relatives. His CIA kidnappers will not believe he is 15, nor that he was just passing through a demonstration in Karachi to find his father. They fly him to Kandahar, where he is tortured into signing a confession that is then used to send him to Guantanamo bay.

This is an immensely painful story - mostly because so much of it is based in real events. If anything, the inhumanity is toned down to make it suitable for young adult readers. Khalid, the protagonist, is fictional - but the story is true, and it is a book that will make you angry, depressed, frightened and sad. And yet there is a message of hope there too. Hope that we can answer evil with good, and turn away from the violence that is perpetrated against us.

This book moved me deeply. I knew it would have to - it is one of those subjects that cannot leave you untouched. But depressing as the subject material must inevitably be, and despite the evil it describes - I cannot recommend this book highly enough. There is no glossing over of unhelpful facts here. There is no wallowing in self pity or partisanship. Instead there is a story of evil, injustice, understanding, love and ultimately hope.
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on October 1, 2014
I enjoyed the different perspective of this book. I would hope these types of things don't happen at the bidding of the US but there is so much cruelity and hatred in the world including our own country that I afraid alot goes on that we are not aware of. As I said, I "enjoyed" the book for its unique point of view.
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on April 10, 2012
Khalid was fifteen when he was kidnapped and taken to Kandahar. He wondered would he remain there forever, would he ever see his family again.
I think the author did an excellent job potraying Khalid's feelings.
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