Boys Without Names is a young adult novel dealing with the tough topic of child labor. Most of the teenagers I know are probably unaware that the carefree lives they lead are not necessarily par for the course around the world. Sheth's novel explores this topic by introducing us to Gopal, an Indian boy, who moves with his family from the country where they are no longer able to make a living, to Mumbai, where they plan to move in with Gopal's uncle. On their journey they are separated from Baba, their father, who had gone ahead to find their uncle's home, but was not yet there when the rest of the family arrived. While worrying about Baba, Gopal is also concerned about how their uncle will have enough money to support another family and starts looking for work. He is excited to be offered a job at a factory making frames, and quickly tells his mother of his plan. However, nothing goes as planned, and Gopal is drugged by the young man who entices him with the promise of work, and taken to provide slave labor in a frame making factory. There are several other boys there who must also work in horrible conditions and suffer beatings and poor treatment. All the boys are reticent to share anything of themselves and Gopal gives each a name of sorts since they do not share their own.
This book was hard to read at times, so depressing and distressing was the treatment of Gopal and the other boys. I appreciated Sheth's story and its importance, but Boys Without Names is not an easy book. There is a lot to think about and much to discuss, and this is a selection for a more mature reader.