London, Penguin, 2009, 339p
At first, I really struggled to get into Guantanamo Boy - the novel is written in present tense, which makes for difficult reading. However, as I got caught up in the story, the use of present tense became more effective, and it was like reading poetry, and seeing right into the world of Khalid.
The key theme of this story is Khalid's identity. He is a second generation immigrant, with Muslim parents, living in Manchester. But he is mistaken for a terrorist, whilst visiting aunts in Pakistan. He is fifteen, but no one believes him. And this identity crisis seeps into his unconscious, influencing the way he sees the world and driving him mad.
I particularly enjoyed the educational elements of this novel. As Khalid learns about the history of the Muslim religion, and about the context of this conflict, the reader learns, too. The text is very political - I feel that Perera is using the text to voice her own concerns about war, power structures, and methods of torture.
As a librarian, my favourite scene is when Khalid is offered the opportunity to borrow some books. He thrives in reading - it stabilises him and gives him a sense of normality and peace. It's a librarian's dream!
I have already mentioned my problem with this book - it being written in present tense. But the power of Perera's opinions and knowledge penetrate through that challenge, and so I found the novel really engaging.