(From Goodreads): Fifteen-year-old Munna lives with his Ma and sisters in a small town in India. Because the family is poor, he is sold to a Sheikh’s camel farm in a Gulf country. Here he must train the young camel jockeys. He must starve them so that they remain light, and he must win the Gold Sword race for the Sheikh. In despair, he realizes that he is trapped and there is no escape. But with encouragement from a Canadian scientist and his spunky teenage daughter, Avra, Munna m Gold Sword Race, he also stumbles upon a discovery that will end the slavery of the camel kids.
I’m not a huge fan of YA novels, BUT give me a YA novel with societal issues, and I’ll like it! With Ghost Boys though, I loved this novel. Shenaaz Nanji has a great writing style when it comes to letting us feel what Munna feels – whether it be pain, empathy, or fear, you’re guaranteed to feel everything alongside Munna and the other camel boys.
This diverse YA novel helps give you a sense of what goes on in reality. I mean, who knew that camel racing was a thing, let alone poaching young boys (and toddlers) to be jockeys? That’s just mind-blowing in itself, but to learn about it in a novel is eye-opening.
Manna never really had a father figure in his life, and to see him transform into a surrogate father and even older brother to the boys is a sweet touch (and animals, come to think of it). He was trying to give them a better outlook on their situation, and even puts their happiness and well-being before his own. Munna is a truly phenomenal character, and I commend Shenaaz for writing a book with mostly all male characters – we don’t get enough of that in books these days (at least, all the books that I read).
Despite the sudden ending, I think Ghost Boys is a great stand-out, because it’s also age-appropriate for the YA audience, and a great read for the general 12-17 year olds. I think older audiences will like it too, but I mean, how could anyone not like this book when Munna is such a sweetheart?
5/5. This book has the power to start a great conversation about poverty in general, and the sad situations boys are mercilessly thrown into in the Middle East. I loved the clear writing style, and the characters are all likeable, despite whatever circumstances they have playing for or against them. A+, Shenaaz Nanji!